Government

Cooperative effort between city and county on the table

July 19, 2013
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Grand Rapids city commissioners have already agreed to allow the city assessor’s office to enter into a new one-year service agreement with Kent County’s Bureau of Equalization. County commissioners will likely follow suit on Thursday.

City Assessor Scott Engerson called the agreement an expansion of the collaborative relationship Grand Rapids has with Kent County when he presented his office’s request to city commissioners earlier this month. Engerson said the latest contract was similar to an earlier one his department made with the county’s bureau.

This time, the agreement will focus on assessment roll services; Engerson said it calls for the county’s office to process city deeds and other recording documents directly into the city’s assessing software.

“This collaboration is a result of several discussions between the city of Grand Rapids assessor and the Equalization Department to find ways to collaborate more across business functions. Specifically, we are collaborating on the processing of property transfers, recorded deeds and the property transfer affidavit form,” said County Equalization Director Matt Woolford in an e-mail to the Business Journal.

The property-transfer function is a key to the service agreement.

The Michigan Department of Treasury requires an affidavit be filed whenever a property is transferred, along with a reason for a transfer. The taxable value of a property has to be reassessed when one is transferred. A new owner has to file the form within 45 days of taking possession of a property, as found in Public Act 415 of 1994.

“Looking at our combined processes, we can eliminate some duplication of effort and save money for taxpayers by contracting with the city to perform this function for them,” said Woolford.

Engerson told commissioners the agreement was central to his office as his budget this year is nearly 3 percent less than last year. The contract with the county will cost his department $79,900, but will save the office money over the course of the fiscal year.

“The savings are accomplished through a staffing model, which is a combination of staff deletions, staff additions, reliance on the newly formed 311 Call Center, and implementation of the assessment roll services agreement,” said Engerson.

The new call center will take over some of the office’s customer-service functions, but will also cost the office $33,245 over the fiscal year.

The county bureau will spend $39,950 to convert two part-time employees to full time for the length of the agreement.

“It’s our intent to start this as soon as the board of commissioners approves this,” said Woolford. He added that the funds from the city will cover his department’s expenses for taking on the additional work.

“We’re reducing some redundancy in the city’s assessor’s office,” said Woolford, who also felt other municipalities might consider a similar agreement with the bureau.

“Equalization already processes deeds and other documents that are recorded daily at the county Register of Deeds Office,” said Woolford. “Adding this incremental property transit affidavit effort is a way for us to accomplish more by working collaboratively together.”

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