County moves ahead with tax department improvements

May. 10, 2013 @ 06:06 AM

The Rutherford County Tax Department has begun the process of upgrading and implementing $1.5 million in improvements pointed out in a North Carolina Association of County Commissioners report issued in March.

In April, commissioners approved starting to look for a Revenue Director — a position that has been vacant for the last two years. Rutherford County Manager Carl Classen budgeted a starting pay of $90,000 per year, including taxes and benefits.

Other improvements include upgrading the office phone system, computer system and changing the floor plan of the office to present a more

"customer friendly" atmosphere.

Classen said the biggest expense thus far is for the new phone system. The initial plan was to upgrade phones in the department to a voice over Internet (VoIP) system but the county will have to implement the system county-wide.

Classen said that will bring the cost of the upgrade to $500,000.

"The cost is huge, but the savings is substantial," Classen said.

While the price tag is large, he said the county will save $65,000 per year over eight years to repay that expense. The savings will come in long-distance and maintenance fees.

The county will pay for the phone upgrade using its building maintenance fund. Classen said the savings over the eight years will be repaid into that fund.

Another large project is revamping the department floor plan is estimated to cost between $300,000 and $600,000 for construction.

"We are still waiting on the overall cost but we have contracted with an architect and are waiting on the final cost estimates," Classen said.

The change to an open floor plan will force the county to move the entire tax department to the Rutherford County Annex and provide temporary work stations at a cost of $70,000 to $95,000. Classen said the office will make the move in August.

Classen estimated the entire cost of the project to be $1.5 million. The cost of the project will be absorbed by the county's building maintenance fund, delinquent tax revenue collections and personnel attrition.

The cost of the computer upgrade will be allocated from the general fund. The cost of the upgrade is estimated at $760,000.

Another part of the reorganization plan Classen budgeted for an independent firm to review the 2012 revaluation. He said the purpose of the review is to use new software to "make sure procedures and data systems are in place for the next revaluation." That review is expected to cost approximately $90,000.