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Assessor: Outsourcing assessment is good value

ASSESSOR: The Clinton County Assessor’s Office, housed in the courthouse and responsible for assessing all 10,000 commercial and residential properties in the county, was one of the topics addressed at the Commissioners’ election forum Tuesday between Republican candidates Richelle Lutz and incumbent Scott Shoemaker. Lutz asked why the county elects an assessor if assessments are outsourced to a company in Kokomo.

BY SHARON BARDONNER - sbardonner@ftimes.com

A contract held by the Clinton County Assessor’s Office with Ad Valorem Solutions to provide property assessment services was one of the subjects raised by Richelle Lutz, Republican candidate for commissioner, at the election forum between Lutz and incumbent Commissioner Scott Shoemaker held Tuesday evening at the Clinton County Chamber of Commerce office.

Lutz took issue with the $461,000 paid for the four-year contract that provides for one-quarter of the county to be reassessed each year. 

Shoemaker explained that the county pays about $115,000 ($115,375) annually for the contract and two more employees would be needed in the assessor’s office to do the work in-house, noting that there are 10,000 parcels in the county to assess.

By comparison, adding two more staff members would cost the county $150,000 annually, he said.

When asked what percentage of the total valuation the cost of the contract represented, Shoemaker said it was less than 2 percent of the county’s budget. 

The outlay also benefits every municipality, Shoemaker added, since each taxing entity’s revenues derive from the property tax assessment.

“In the contract, which I have right here if anybody wants to see it, they allow Clinton County 15 days per year to do their work,” Lutz said, “and anything after that, if the county wants anything more done, this company charges the county $500 per day.”

But Lutz’s interpretation of the contract was incorrect.

The contract provides 15 days of support services for appeals, Shoemaker said.  

County Assessor Dana Myers said that Ad Valorem is one of nine companies in the state to offer the service and was one of five bidders the county considered.

Although Ad Valorem’s bid of $461,500 was not the lowest of the five, it was considered the best, she said. Also, since the county had contracted with the company previously, officials felt Ad Valorem already had experience locally.

“We felt we wouldn’t have to start new,” she said.

“Some counties do it in-house with their own assessors and their own IT epople, some use outside companies like we do, and some let a company do part of the work and they do the rest in-house,” she said.

Nineteen of Indiana’s 92 counties do the work in-house, Myers said. The assessment entails visiting each property to determine if any changes have been made to affect its value.

Trending – looking at home sale prices in the neighborhood – is also used in calculating values, Myers said. “They’re like an extension of this office.”

“Our goal is to bring more in-house,” she added, and that happened when the last contract was signed. 

All of the contracts with outside assessment vendors are reviewed by the Department of Local Government Finance, she added. 

“I think it’s a good value,” said Myers, “especially when you consider that the assessed property values are the basis on which all of the revenue – the county’s entire budget and everyone else’s – depends. It’s what is used to calculate how much revenue for each entity is brought in.”

Myers will receive bids for the next four-year contract on Friday, with the Board of Commissioners expected to open the bids at their meeting Monday.