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The penalty for refusing to participate in politics is to be governed by your inferiors--(Plato)

Workplace Observations -

Gilmer County Assessors Office

by: K T Perry ©2002

Background :

Every County Assessors office must conform to the Rules, Regulations and Policies as set forth in the State Statutes for it's respective state. On the whole these vary slightly but are in the majority the same. The Department of Revenue is the department of the state (in Georgia) that is responsible at the state level to oversee and ensure that each county is following the letter of the law. The primary objective of a County Assessors office is to produce the county's Tax Digest in a timely fashion while keeping within the rules for Uniformity, Fair Market and Taxation. Each County's Board of Commissioners (BOC) is required to appoint a Board of Assessors (BOA) for the County Assessors Office and work with the BOA on approving a yearly budget. This is to insure that the state statutes regarding assessment of property is done in an unbiased manner, fulfilling the objectives of Uniformity, Fair Market & Taxation. The BOA are responsible for making sure the Chief Appraiser and his staff adhere to the state rules and regulations as well as facilitate in areas of budget, employee complaints, office policy, etc.

Communication, Conflict and Culture

Gilmer County is unique in that although the BOA is supposed to be an independent board, it is commonly known that it takes it's directives from the BOC office and County Attorney. This causes a conflict between the BOA and the Chief Appraiser of the office. This conflict has caused an alarming lack of communication between the office and the BOA and the BOC Office. The lack of communication lead to the entire BOA resigning at one time, followed by the Chief Appraiser resigning.

Specifically, after many months of memo's being unfruitful or ignored between the Chief Appraiser, Board of Assessors and County Commissioners offices, an item appeared in the County Newspaper that the County Assessors Office was no longer covered on the County's liability Insurance policy. This had never been previously disclosed to either the Chief Appraiser or the Board of Assessors. Upon the Chief Appraiser reading the newspaper and learning of this, he phoned the Board of Assessors Attorney. It was advised to him by the attorney that until the details could be obtained, to be safe and protect the office as well as the employees, that he should immediately park all county vehicles used by the assessors office. This was done immediately and memoed to the BOA members as well as the BOC and County Attorney. By parking the vehicles the appraisers were not able to perform their duties.

Upon receipt of this by the members of the BOA and then looking into the matter and verifying the facts, they resigned their positions effective immediately all at once. This caused the Chief Appraiser to resign his position as well. No one wanted the responsibility of their positions without the coverage of liability insurance protecting their actions.

The communication between the former Chief Appraiser and his staff did not seem to be affected by the lack of communication between the boards. I find this attributable to the Chief Appraiser keeping his staff fully informed of day to day developments and his use of motivation in what they needed to do as it relates or impacts their responsibilities. The Chief Appraiser was often found discussing responsibilities in positive ways with members of the staff, helping them find ways to improve or taking in comments and suggestions for future changes or improvements. There were weekly staff meetings where everyone was assembled and told how well everyone was doing and what was going to need to be done in the following weeks, what challenges they faced and his plans to overcome any obstacles. Updates were given and discussed as how to improve or not. Everyone always knew who was responsible for what and this facilitated the 'team' environment in knowing where you may be needed when done with your assignment and before you go on to the next, or in knowing whom you need to see for a needed answer.

The communication between the new interim Chief Appraiser, his staff, the Board of Assessors and the County Commissioners is at best minimal if not absent altogether. The new Chief Appraiser enjoys closed door one-on-one meetings and believes that staff meetings are a waste of time. The members of the staff are often confused as to who to go to when in need of an answer, productivity is down due to the lack of staff members knowing what they are supposed to be doing due to a lack of direction. Turnover, absenteeism and conflict are on the rise. The Chief Appraiser seems to make snap decisions on all things before gathering facts to make an informed decision. While he is able to make decisions quickly it is often found to be an erroneous decision causing added work to the already overloaded staff.

Conflict within the ranks is on the rise, something that was not an issue under the former Chief Appraiser as he had a way of treating each person fairly. Staff members are vying for the positions of 'favourites' in order to retain their positions, increase their pay-checks and get the better assignments. Instead of seeing team work you are seeing a lot of I's. This lack of good communication and the added conflict within the ranks has resulted in less productivity, lack of quality, and an increasing number of major mistakes.

The culture of this county government is outdated at best. While the rest of the state and country has been moving forward, this county has been standing still. Coming here for the first time you are taken in by the beautiful views the Mountains (actually foothills) bestow upon you. You are encouraged by the friendliness you encounter from the locals. You see a quiet, quaint, beautiful town, "just like you remember growing up in". Once you move here, you quickly learn that this county is stuck in the past. You realize the only kind of people you see besides yourself (caucasian) are latin american, and they work in the poultry plants. Reading the local newspaper, you are reminded of the old sitcom 'The Dukes of Hazard'. Once you gain employment in the county office you realize that the idea of 'The Dukes of Hazard' came from this beautiful place you call home. You now work for the 'good 'ole boy system'!


Technologically the office has improved greatly. Thirteen years ago the office staff were still manually recording everything in actual books, manually making all calculations, corrections and entry's. The entire system of county offices had one copy machine located in the Clerk of Court's Office. They have since stepped into the age of computers, first with a COTT system, then to a DOS based system and now they are utilizing a Windows system with GPS and Digital Imaging capabilities. The office has a copy machine of their own, as well as a Mylar map copier.

The problem they are experiencing technologically is inadequate education and implementation of the technology. The staff members do not know how to harness all the capabilities of the system, have not been trained in it's use, and there has not been any communication that they will receive training. Each person is 'learning as they go' which of course is keeping them from being able to do the work as quickly and accurately as offices in comparable counties, as well as causing frustration in those members who are not very computer literate to begin with.

Their mapping system is being installed, yet they have not acquired new digital maps to utilize with the system, they still have to use their Mylar maps from a 1986 flight. This not only causes additional problems for the mapper, but also the appraisers who need up to date maps to locate parcels, but is also a waste of money and time when the computer based mapping system would facilitate more accurate and quicker work.

They have recently moved from standard Polaroid cameras for documentation of field work to digital cameras that are downloadable to the specific parcel within the system, that is if the users of the cameras are properly trained to download to the corresponding parcel. If training is not given, this can cause an added workload for the staff in correcting any association problems.

Recommendations and Public Awareness

One item that this office could do, which would alleviate much of the 'front counter' work would be to install a public "view only" terminal. This would allow the real estate researchers to do their own research instead of waiting in line for the front desk clerk. The use of Public "view only" terminals in other counties has proven to be such a benefit that the need for a fulltime front desk clerk has been eliminated. The 'front desk clerk' is now available to lend assistance to other overloaded members of the office.

Other reccomendations for this office would be for the new Chief Appraiser to take classes on mangement and employee relations as well as the state DOR courses for new Chief Appraisers. The staff should be provided with training in the use of the computer systems and equipment as well as being kept up to date on changes in the state statutes.

Recently, there has been an increased awareness by the citizens of the county of their county's governing practices. More citizens are showing up at public meetings and asking questions of the elected and appointed officials. I contribute this increased awareness to the growing population of the county and the more informative news reporting by the county newspaper.

It is the hope of the staff members of the assessors office that public pressure on the County Commissioners and Board of Assessors will ultimately lead to a better managed office, that will be able to produce an on time, accurate Tax Digest and an office in which they (the staff) can enjoy their work and service to the county.

Copyright © KTPerry 2002

May 2002

Recently the Gilmer County Commissioners Office and the Gilmer County Assessors Office have been the headliners of the Times Courier.  Many of you 'newcomers' have been wondering if these "latest reported issues are the exception and not the rule or the future".  I will assure you, that the latest issues have been the rule, not the exception.  Hopefully with the Gilmer County Citizens Voice, we can prevent it from becoming the future.

I have been blessed with copies of public records obtained from the County by the now defunct Gilmer County Information Council.  After going through these records, I found that many of the same issues that are so prevalent today, were prevalent 10 and 12 years ago.  The only difference is that some of the players have changed. 

As time allows, and hopefully as membership and awareness grow, we will post here as much of the information from then and now, as possible and in doing so ensure that these kinds of issues become a thing of the past. 

We all need to be informed, we all need to monitor our elected and appointed officials.  We all need to tell them when we feel they are not performing their duties to our satisfaction as well as letting them know when they are performing well. 

It will take us. Our community, as a whole to steer our county into the proper direction for the coming years, to make all of these "issues" a thing of the past and to unite all of us together for one common goal "A Better Place to Live".

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