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El Paso County assessor's big project designed to save money, decrease appeals

July 6, 2016 Updated: July 8, 2016 at 9:47 am
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photo - El Paso County Assessor website
El Paso County Assessor website 

Since El Paso County Assessor Steve Schleiker took office in late 2014, he has been on a mission to revamp his office's website.

Schleiker envisions an easily searchable, user friendly, and interactive portal that he expects will draw more traffic to the already immensely popular site. The assessor also expects his plan, which might be launched in early 2017, will lead to fewer valuation appeals and save the county money.

"I've been doing research on this for a long time," Schleiker said. "It's a website that is heavily, heavily used throughout the community. Our website gets hit 37 million times a year. That thing gets pounded."

While the traffic to the site comes mostly from the Pike Peak region's Realtors, surveyors, appraisers and others in the industry, Schleiker hopes that turning to a software product used by other assessors around Colorado and the U.S. will help attract more residents, businesses and entrepreneurs to the site.

The product that Schleiker has targeted is a fairly new one. Ian Lamont, a co-founder of Spatialest Inc., said his company's Community software was hatched about 18 months ago. Since then, more than two dozen assessors around the country have signed on to use his product. Lamont said El Paso County's neighbor to the north, Douglas County, is the first Colorado municipality to buy the program.

"They're due to go live shortly," he said, noting that at least four other Colorado assessors are in the process of convincing their leaders to purchase from Spatialest.

Lamont's product, which he said is designed to help assessors become a "unified resource" for their communities and county government, cost municipalities between $20,000 and $30,000 for annual licensing fees. And there is also an initial $10,000 to $15,000 startup cost for design and setup services.

According to Schleiker, the El Paso County Contracts and Procurement Division is reviewing his proposal to transform the assessor's website.

"I want to ensure that I cross all the T's and dot all the I's in regard to our procurement procedures," he said.

If all goes as planned the new El Paso County assessor's website would launch Jan. 1, 2017. Schleiker said odd years are when his office does a complete reappraisal for more than 270,000 properties. He said the January launch would give residents and others five months to learn how to use the software before the county mails out updated notices of tax value.

The assessor has talked with "several assessors who currently have the software in place." He points to King County, Wash., and Davidson County, Tenn., as models for what he wants to accomplish. Both of the Spatialest customers told Schleiker that they've seen 30 to 40 percent reduction in assessment appeals since launching the product. Schleiker said such a reduction would help his office of 51 employees be more efficient and free up more time to do other tasks.

The community portals for King and Davidson counties allow users to easily search by property, neighborhood, school district, voting district and more to see home sales, permits, assessments, etc. The websites have an easy-to-use interactive map that is displayed next to valuable information. People can quickly compare properties to their own and determine if assessed values are accurate.

Spatialest was started by a group of geography and computer professors from a Florida university, Lamont said.

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