County approves tax office changes

Apr. 02, 2013 @ 08:24 AM

Amid public comments levying harsh criticism, Rutherford County Commissioners approved recommended changes to the Rutherford County Tax Office.

Commissioners approved the changes during its regular meeting Monday.

Among the changes were changing the name of the office from the Rutherford County Tax Office to the Rutherford County Revenue Department, beginning July 1, 2013. Additionally, commissioners approved allowing County Manager Carl Classen to start the recruitment process of seeking a Revenue Director to oversee the office.

"The report suggested that we need to get someone in charge," Classen said. "The problem is that when no one is in charge, no one is in charge."

The changes were prompted by a report issued by the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners that indicated that the office needed central management for its functions. The report also called the county's tax office software outdated and recommended upgrading. Classen made that upgrade part of his approved recommendations Monday.

"It is a legacy system and is very outdated," Classen said. "We are working on a property tax system that runs a full-range of systems."

The new system will be "cloud-based" meaning the information will be stored on the Internet rather than stored on in-house servers. Classen said that the cost of the new software to be "within 10 percent of the current annual software cost." That annual cost is approximately $79,000.

"It will be more available on the Internet not only to the people in the office but also to the general public," Classen said. "It will be expensive."

The plan also calls for seeking out a new phone system for the office. Earlier, Classen said that could also include revamping the phone system for the entire county.

The county will also retain the services of an architect to map out an open-office floor plan which was sited as a need for the functions of the tax office.

Cross-training will also be provided with the intent of different personnel having the ability to perform different functions within the office.

"This is all based on a customer service model and most of the staff will be in the mode of customer service," Classen said. "In the tax office, that can be a bit of a misnomer but we want the customer to know they are respected."

Earlier in the meeting, several residents addressed issues within the tax office, including some members of a 2011 ad hoc committee assigned to evaluate different functions of the office. The report called the creation of such a committee "unnecessary."

Members of the committee suggested that the report did bring things to light, however more needed to be done.

"There are some substantial changes that should be done," said Duncan Edwards, member of the ad hoc committee. "It cannot come from new titles and new arrangements."

Some landowners also questioned the customer service of the tax office in the past and called treatment of taxpayers "hostile."

"I do have questions about things, but customer service has been evident in the report," said Commissioner Greg Lovelace. "We have to treat the public with dignity and respect."

Commissioners asked Classen to give regular updates on the progress of the plan implementation.

In other business, commissioners:

• approved a motion to excuse Commissioner Eddie Holland from the regular meeting;

• approved the resignation of Lovelace from the Board of Equalization and Review and approved the appointment of John Ridley to the board;

• approved soliciting applications for a vacancy on the Isothermal Planning and Development Commission Board of Trustees:

• approved minutes of the March 4, 2013 meeting;

• approved minutes of the March 4, 2013 special meeting;

• approved budget amendments;

• approved retaining the law firm of Williams & Martelle for the Department of Social Services;

• approved tax refunds and releases;

• approved a resolution acknowledging April as National County Government Month;

• approved a bid from Sisk Grading for Grey Rock Project 8 on the provision that the price of the bid be negotiated.