After two months of living in cramped conditions, the Rutherford County Revenue Department has moved into its newly designed facility in the Rutherford County Courthouse.
Wednesday marked the first day the department conducted its operations in its former location inside the Courthouse.
For the last two months, the department was located in the Commission Meeting Room inside the Rutherford County Annex.
“It was like being sardines in a can,” said Sherry Lavender, billing and collections team leader with the Revenue Department. “We had 11 people in the Commission Room but I know I learned a lot listening to other people in the room. It was good to be together in a room like that.”
The newly designed office was spurred by a report issued from the North Carolina County Commissioners Association which stated the prior office was not customer-friendly.
That prompted Rutherford County Manager Carl Classen to begin the process of a full upgrade to the Revenue Department office and technology.
Initially, Classen set a budget of $1.425 million for renovations to the courthouse office space and an upgrade in technology. The money was budgeted from prior year delinquent tax collections.
With most of the work completed, budget figures show the county will be approximately $340,000 under its budget.
The move started in August and is expected to be completed by the end of this week.
“This is the slowest time for us with collections and billing so this was the perfect time to do this,” Lavender said.
Over the next two days, the department will remove the last pieces of equipment and office supplies out of the Annex and into the new office.
“It takes a full week to move everything,” Classen said. “They have moved technology and office furniture. Tuesday, all of the people were moved to the new facility.
“You know, all those little things you tend to forget? Those are the things they will move Thursday and Friday.”
Wednesday, the department had two open windows for customers.
“It’s taking a little time and we have had some issues with the phones,” Lavender said. “We have had maintenance in here working on it.”
Over the course of the last two months, the Revenue Department staff have worked out of a room that is significantly smaller than what they have moved into.
“It’s been difficult and challenging but not as bad I expected,” Lavender said. “You always hope for the best and expect the worst and, I think we got right in the middle.”
Now, the expectation is the new open-air design of the office will be more customer-friendly. Additionally, the new technology will allow the staff to help customers easier and give more access to taxpayers through the Internet.
“Part of the reason for the new renovations and software was to get us more technologically advanced,” Lavender said. “We are hoping to get to the point where the taxpayer can do everything from home but, if they need us, we are still here.”
The next steps of the process include a county-wide upgrade to the phone system. Classen said the current phone system was installed in 1988.
On top of that, the Revenue Department will continue to migrate data to the new software system. That is expected to be fully implemented in the summer of 2014.
“That’s a little bit behind schedule but not by much,” Classen said. “Different things happen in a tax year so everything can’t be rolled out at once so we are doing it in stages.”
All-in-all, the Revenue Department staff seemed pleased with the new design of their office and Lavender added the transition, both to the Annex and back to the courthouse, was easier than expected and done for good reason.
“It was functional before but it was functionally obsolete,” Lavender said. “I think we will have a good office flow now.”