VOL. 115 | NO. 35 | Wednesday, February 21, 2001
New assessor website coincides with 2001 appraisals
New assessor Web site focuses on reappraisals
By SUE PEASE
The Daily News
Its property reappraisal time in Shelby County.
And, if history repeats itself, there will be many questions and concerns and a lot of phone calls to the Shelby County Assessors office.
To assist property owners in answering questions, the assessors office is launching a new Website Friday, the day before about 104,000 residents will receive their reappraisal notices.
"It is sensitive. I think we are bracing for the fact that some people are a little worried about it and the tax rate. If their value goes up, their taxes go up," said Patrick Lafferty, director of the assessors answer center.
"We are trying to minimize or demystify how (the process) is and why we do what we do."
On the reappraisal forms, which are expected to hit mailboxes Saturday, there will be a notice telling residents they can access the assessors Web site at www.assessor.shelby.tn.us.
Upon logging onto the site, residents will see the new design aimed at informing the public about the reappraisals, Lafferty said.
The office wants to emphasize why the reappraisals are necessary, how the office establishes reappraisal values and what to do if property owners disagree with reappraisals.
Computer users can also look up sales history data for properties in Shelby County, a function users also could do in the past.
A new function users can take advantage of is requesting an informal review of their reappraisal.
Clicking on the "Initiate Informal Review" link will take customers to the information review form where they can fill out name, address, parcel ID, appraisal amount and the residents opinion of value. By clicking on the submit button, the review request is sent.
The request is an informal review and not an appeal, Lafferty said. An official appeal can only be taken to the Shelby County Board of Equalization.
If a resident requests a review, he or she will be sent results on April 20. The equalization board begins accepting 2001 reappraisal appeals May 1.
Residents who initiate a review online will receive a confirmation number they can use for reference, Lafferty said.
"We felt people might be a little leery of dealing with us online, so we want to minimize that through saying you can print this out and write down the confirmation number and refer to it when talking to us on the phone," he said.
The Web site redevelopment started in September. About $4,500 was invested in the redesign and creative effort, he said.
The assessors office hired Consilience Group LLC, a Memphis-based Internet strategy consulting company.
Rachel Rath, account director for Consilience, said the company developed the overall strategy for the site and managed the execution and creative development.
Because of property owners heightened interest with reappraisals, Lafferty said he expects the site to be very busy. To support the extra hits, the office "put some extra octane in there," to ensure the site stays functioning during high-peak times.
Instead of existing on a server with other sites, the assessors site is on its own co-located server hosted by WorldSpice Technologies.
Paul Tomes, president of WorldSpice Technologies, said in traditional hosting, many small to medium-sized business Web sites share one server.
"In the case of the county assessor, their issue is more mission critical," Tomes said.
A co-located server will be more robust and functional, he added.
"Where a Web server gets penalized is if it gets a lot of requests coming in at a very small time frame, like a fraction of a second," Tomes said.
Shelby County Assessor Rita Clark said they used WorldSpice since 1998 and strengthening the server was important.
"We increased the size and strength of our server to make sure it is functional and can take the hits that we anticipate it taking," Clark said.
The site has received more than 1 million hits since 1998.
"We knew people were using it," she said.
However, the site was originally developed in-house and the officials thought it could serve the countys customers more if it were redesigned.
"Consilience convinced us they could make it more user-friendly. We are so pleased with the product going through the professionals who looked at it from the consumers eye. We were really pleased with them because they market it to the general public," Clark said.
"It makes the assessors office open 24 hours a day, seven days a week."
Even if the site has hordes of people logging in, that is OK, the assessors office said.
"This is an excellent public resource and we are really hoping the people will use it," Lafferty said.