Assessing Document Management’s Value
An Arkansas County Assessor implemented DocuWare and gained an electronic workflow that reduced a document’s processing time by 28 days. Their county Treasury Department now has more time to process tax bills, and the county’s cash flow has improved. New transparent processes facilitate employee accountability and have reduced errors. In addition, customer service is more efficient since all documents are digitally stored in one easy to search archive.
The Pulaski County Assessor’s Office is required to value all the real estate property, personal property, business inventories and automobiles in the county for two reasons: to maintain an accurate county tax roll and to keep the legal property descriptions up-to-date. With valuations in place, the county’s tax burden is then fairly and equitably distributed based on the tax rate applied to a property’s assessed value. The Assessor and her staff determine market value and perform maintenance on over 350,000 taxable real estate, business and personal property accounts.
The process in the Assessor’s Office begins when it receives deeds and other property documents from the County Clerk’s Office. These documents are sent electronically, then printed and evaluated to determine which documents need to be acted on. The Assessor’s Office reviews over 80,000 documents annually and usually moves about 12-15% of them through its own multi-step verification process. Some of the reasons for a verification occur when a house is sold, land is sub-divided or special tax districts are created in a neighborhood for water, recreation or fire services.
The Assessor’s Office knew they needed to update their work processes by embracing a digital solution. After dealing with “lost” documents and a workflow slowed by paper-based procedures, they decided to implement DocuWare, an electronic document management solution. Key requirements for the new system included: a faster, more transparent workflow for accountability; a reduction in the number of lost documents; and improved access to information for better customer service.
The Assessor’s Office worked with their Authorized DocuWare Partner to map out their electronic workflow processes and indexing requirements prior to implementation. They chose to implement DocuWare because of the workflow capabilities and the transparency it provided.
“We operate on a crawl, walk, run mindset and it was very important to us to take things slowly in the beginning in order to successfully and easily rollout DocuWare. This approach worked very well enabling us to roll out DocuWare without any operation interruptions,” said Joe D. Thompson Jr., Chief Administrator for the Pulaski County Assessor’s Office.
Today, electronic documents from the County Clerk stay in their electronic format to go through the Assessor’s two-step review process before the workflow is deployed allowing employees to complete tasks simultaneously. Electronic stamps are added to a routing sheet so that in a single glance management can tell where a document is in the workflow. Once a document has been completely processed, the Assessor’s Office can easily send it electronically to the Treasurer’s office so tax billing amounts can be updated and annual tax bills generated.
“By moving to an electronic workflow, their work can be completed simultaneously, speeding processing from 30 days to 2 days. This allows the Assessor’s Office to easily meet the legislatively mandated processing schedule and ensures information is given to the Treasury Department in a timely manner so tax bills are sent promptly and the county’s cash flow is not delayed,” said Thompson.
“Over the last year, approximately 81,000 documents were filed with the County Clerk. We looked at all of them and determined that 10,000 needed attention from our office. Nearing the end of the year, with only 50 documents to take a closer look at, we were readily able to see if these were duplicates or being held for delinquencies. Our year ended easily with all documents having been completely processed ahead of our deadline. DocuWare is amazing,” said Thompson.
Electronic workflow has formalized their processes, increased employee accountability and accuracy, and significantly improved the way they process information. In the past the Treasurer’s Department would “kick back” approximately 130 documents a year because of missing verifications. Now with DocuWare in place that has dropped to only 6 or 7- a 95% decrease in the number of documents to re-process.
The Assessor’s Office goes through a legislative audit each year. With DocuWare in place, the audit is fast and painless because documents can be found in seconds instead of hours. Documents are never missing and the office does not need to devote extra resources to pull paper documents from boxes.
“When folks call us questioning their tax bill, emotions are running high. It is imperative that we are able to quickly address their concerns. Many residents call to find out if they had applied for the Homestead Tax credit. With DocuWare we can search for this information in seconds, compared to our paper-based processes which caused us to often spend 3 hours looking for a document only to come up empty handed,” said Thompson.
The staff loves the DocuWare system because of how much easier it is to process information and then quickly and easily find it again when needed. They were able to easily manage document retention schedules by moving historical records into DocuWare. Boxed paper records were scanned and other digital records imported into one digital archive. Since the older documents are accessed less often, they were not indexed. Instead employees utilize DocuWare’s fulltext search function to find the records they need. Providing top-of-the-line customer service is happening now that finding and accessing information is electronic.
Now that historical records are securely stored, the Assessor’s Office is automating as many other processes as they can, e.g., time card approvals and vacation requests. These processes previously consumed almost an entire day, and now they can be done in minutes.
With DocuWare now in place, the Assessor’s Office plans to integrate it with assessor software, Assessor’s Apprentice, by installing DocuWare’s Smart Connect module. This will help to streamline customer service since the staff will have access to documents while working in Assessor’s Apprentice.
“DocuWare’s biggest benefits are twofold: employee accountability and faster processing time. Both have made a huge impact in our office by giving our staff the motivation and ability to do their jobs well,” said Thompson.
The Assessor’s Office works hard to utilize every technology reasonably available to make Pulaski County the best assessed county in Arkansas. “Best assessed” means that all assessments will be the most equitable and each contact with the public is professional and courteous.