In Efforts To Prevent Further Errors Wasatch County Approves Three Hires For Assessor’s Office

As part of addressing the $6 Million county tax error, the Wasatch County Council approved the hiring of three people to aid the assessor’s office moving forward. The hires include an Information Systems professional.

The decision to add staff to the Wasatch County assessor’s office comes after a clerical error—made in May 2019 and later discovered in the fall of 2019—cost government entities an under-collection of six million dollars in taxes. The original mistake was related to an overestimated value of a home in the Twin Creeks area.

In the county’s published summary of events regarding the six-million-dollar tax error, the county pointed at hiring additional staff in the assessor’s office as part of a plan to ensure avoiding a similar mistake in the future. At the Wasatch County council meeting on January 22, the council discussed adding three positions to the county offices. Assistant County Manager Dustin Grabau explained to the council that they had received some recommendations from the state tax commission. One was to add an additional certified appraiser and an additional clerical position replacing a current vacant single position by splitting it into two. Another was to fill the other vacant certified appraiser position. A final recommendation from the commission was to hire an appraiser with some technical skills.

“My concern is that we have a hard enough time filling appraisers (positions) as it is, let alone ones that also have an IS background,” Grabau explained. “So, I think it would be a better path forward to actually hire an IS staff member to support the appraiser’s office as they strive to automate a lot of processes that they are currently going through. It would be a little bit more money than what we originally talked about, not a lot. There’s a lot of opportunities to basically not just address the appraiser’s office needs but look at the whole process as to how it flows from beginning to the end. What’s the process from the recorder’s office to the appraiser’s office, to the clerk and treasurer.”

Grabau adds that leveraging technology with an additional IS employee would make the entire assessor’s office more effective. The Information Systems hire would work under the county’s IT department but would be assigned to help in the assessor’s office, Grabau says this type of model is working in other areas.

“This is the same model that Duchesne County currently uses,” Grabau said. “They use On Base as their workflow process for their appraiser’s office. They have an IS staff member assigned to them to support their services. We use a similar model with the Sheriff’s office actually right now, where we have an IS support staff for the Sheriff’s office. So, it would be a continuation of that.”

Grabau says integrating the assessor’s office process would also provide better statistics and analysis for the county to utilize. The county will be adding three new hires.

“An IS position, a greenbelt specialist, and a primary/secondary specialist, and additional computers, desks, other things necessary,” Grabau continued. “Minus the previous position that existed. With a total ask of $182,000 is what we would need to basically fund these three positions where there previously was one.”

The county will use funds previously allocated to prepare for the new administration building to pay for the hires. Wasatch County Council voted unanimously to approve plans to move forward with the three hires.

Read the original story at KPCW.org