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From the Desk of County Commissioner
 Marty Qually

(6/2012) During the campaign for County Commissioner candidates kept hearing consistent messages from citizens: the County needs to better communicate with the public, lower County expenditures, and streamline services to the tax payers. It's been five months and June marks the unveiling of a new Tax Services Department intended to meet these goals. Staff are rallying to the challenge and already suggesting ways to improve how we do business. Too often when we are asked to make changes we think that something is wrong. It is the fear of change that can paralyze us into inaction and accepting that the status quo. The citizens of Adams County, it's employees and elected officials do not want "good enough"; we want excellence. The County Commissioners do not see making changes as a reaction to failure but as an improvement on success and preparing for the future. We are creating a plan costs nothing extra today and creates fiscal savings for tomorrow. The new Tax Services Department will improve communication between staff and citizens, and will provide better service. As we move through this process we encourage feedback so that we can continue to improve services.

The Tax Services Department was created out of a need to better coordinate the services of four related, but separate, departments: Tax Assessment, Tax Appraisal, Tax Claims, and Tax Mapping. Each of these departments are unique in their roles but in each there is enough overlap and duplication of services that a single department will result in efficiency and savings. At this time, the exact business map of the department is incomplete. When we began this process, we met with staff and gave them very broad guidelines: 1) No one will lose their job, 2) No new employees will be hired (newly created position will be filled by current staff) and 3) Current salaries will remain intact for at least six months. In essence the team stays the same, but the positions will change. Think of this as a football team that has four quarterbacks on the field at once but no wide receivers. In our case the owners (citizens) told the coaches (Commissioners) that something needed to be done. While some organizations would have hit the free market for a new team, we know we have a great team already, all we needed to do is rearranging the current players. The first part of the process was to appoint a new Tax Services Director, once completed then we allowed that Director to make recommendations on the formation of the new department.

During the interview process it became clear that two individuals rose to the top. They were so committed to the reorganization that both agreed one should serve as Director and the other as Assistant Director. To have two equally qualified staff members willing to serve as an Assistant Director to the other was a credit to their personal integrity and commitment. Darryl Crum, Director of Appraising, and Barbara Walters, Director of Assessment were willing to support each other as Director of the new Tax Services Department. The entire interview team and County Commissioners recommended that both positions be created and the County Commissioners approved Darryl Crum as the new Director of Tax Services and Barbara Walters as the Assistant Director on May 30th. It is up to this team to provide a blueprint for the County Commissioners to begin creating the new Tax Services Department. Now that the Director and Assistant Director have been named their previous positions will be abolished. During the interview process both Barb and Darryl had a chance to review their operations in a new light and they provided great suggestions on streamlining the new Department. With no disrespect to either, most of their suggestions were too technical to include in this article for fear that you would stop reading at this point, but rest assured their ideas are great.

I do, however, want to highlight two suggestions; first the cross training of staff to work on multiple projects throughout the year and second the creation of a single Tax Services front desk. Currently, Tax Appraising, Assessment, and Claims have busy and slow seasons. Some months Tax Claims is slow, while Tax Assessment is busy and vice versa. In another month Tax Appraising could use a hand with data entry, and from now on Tax Appraising will be helping Tax Assessment with Clean and Green inspections, etc. By working together we will be able to use staff time more efficiently and begin to increase work output. This will result in savings to the County. No matter how efficient we make County government, as more people move into Adams County our Tax Services Department will need to serve them.

The second idea being implemented soon, is the creation of a single front desk for the new department. Currently, citizens often bounce from one office to the other to receive the help they need. In each case a different staff member sees to their needs, but too often the citizen leaves feeling that they ran the gauntlet. This doesn't mean that the staff were not helping them, just that few of us know the difference between Claims, Assessment, and Appraisal, so it is easy to go into the wrong office. In the future, one staff member at the front desk will be able to determine the needs of the citizen. Questions will be answered directly or the citizen will be efficiently directed to the person they need. In the end not only will citizens receive better service, but County staff will be able to remain focused on their tasks at hand.

The changes to the County Tax Departments are just the beginning of a new streamlined County government. Throughout our government we are creating teams to find solutions to our challenges and as Commissioners we are committed to maintaining a dialogue with County staff and not just creating top down directives. The most important resource in County government is the staff; they get the job done. If any County project is to succeed it will take the hard work and dedication of County staff. In seeing the leadership and teamwork coming out of the new Tax Services Department, I have no doubt this reorganization will be successful.

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