Revenue Department finishing changes

Feb. 07, 2014 @ 04:53 AM

The last quarter of 2013 was active for the new Rutherford County Revenue Department.

In addition to the normal day-to-day operations of the office — including dealing with taxpayers and maintaining ever-changing tax records — the department was forced to move locations to allow for a new office scheme and a complete revamping of office operations.

The changes were spurred by a report issued by the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners (NCACC) which cited numerous problems with the office including using legacy computer systems and problematic leadership.

In September 2013, the department — formerly known as the Tax Department — moved its operations from the Rutherford County Courthouse to the County Annex to allow for a complete redesign of its base of operations.

During that time, the department also had to switch to a new vehicle taxation system implemented statewide to allow for vehicle tag costs and taxes to be combined on one bill.

"We were still billing on the old system up to September," said county Revenue Director Sherry Lavender. "We are still receiving some late renewals from the time period, so we are still doing some billing on the old county system."

She said there are only about 50 records in the county that remain in the old system.

Lavender was appointed to the new position of Revenue Director in January after the retirement of interim director Clair Hubbard.

The reorganization of the department has also led to two management vacancies. Lavender said she will be seeking team leaders for appraisal/listing and billing/collection in the near future.

Last month, the department became the first in the county to operate a new voice-over-Internet phone system which has been implemented across all county offices.

With the office and organizational changes completed, the office is in the midst of converting its tax software to a new system. The new software, called NCPTS (NC Property Tax Solution), was developed by Farragut based in Durham. Wake, Catawba, Harnett, Guilford and Pitt currently are using the NCPTS system. The system, according to Farragut's website, is jointly owned by Farragut and the NCACC.

"We are in the middle of doing data migration," Lavender said. "We have already done some training and will do more training in the summer."

She said, last month, the department quadrupled its interaction with taxpayers over the month because of tax delinquencies.

All of the changes are leading to what Lavender and County Manager Carl Classen called "excellent customer service."

"One of the biggest fundamental differences between us and other Revenue Departments around the state is on customer service," Classen said. "You didn't used to work in any other area outside of your silo but if we cross-trained employees, there are certain things that are due in the department; what happens is the whole body can be directed and move to where they are needed the most."

The new NCPTS system is expected to be implemented sometime in the fourth quarter of 2014.

"It's going to take a little time to fully implement everything," Classen said. "There are still people who are specialists but there is a focus on working together."

Lavender said implementing the new software should be the final piece of a big puzzle with the overall gain to improve service to taxpayers in the county.

"We've gone through a lot of changes in the last year and we have just one hurdle left," Lavender said. "We are looking forward to getting to work on that."