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The Assessor's Track Record on Technology Adoption

How much do I pay in property taxes compared to my commercial and residential neighbors?

One would think such a straightforward question could be easily answered on the Assessor website. The Assessor’s site redirects to the Tax Collector’s site which, after additional scrolling and poking around, links to records of taxes paid. Other self-service options are easier found by a Google search than attempting to navigate the Assessor’s site.

As Alameda and most major counties throughout the state have demonstrated, looking up property taxes paid on properties by address or parcel number and accessing area maps can be a painless exercise.

Since first entering office in 2011, Mark Church has continuously claimed to be making “significant headway in providing for a new system for property assessments and is in the midst of developing requirements for the new system” as stated in a 2014 San Mateo Daily Journal editorial. Unbeknownst to the Daily Journal at the time, County Information Services had only issued a request for proposals for an Assessment and Property Tax System to "create efficiencies across property tax assessment, collection, and disbursement." The project was eventually scrapped with the Assessor’s Office resurrecting a scaled down version of the project on its own as the Assessor Property Assessment System (APAS).

On his 2018 re-election website, Church proclaimed ‘mission accomplished’ for implementing a project to replace the department’s 20-year old legacy systems. In actuality, award of the APAS project was not issued until after his re-election in December of 2018. He went on to claim implementation of “technologies allow[ing] the public to use their PCs, tablets and mobile devices to access services at their convenience.” The office's website is still a challenge to navigate unless you know exactly what you are looking for.

In the office’s FY 2021-23 budgetary request, the system is still referred to in the future tense around it’s “continued development and implementation ... which when completed will retire the EZ Access legacy system.” In recent job postings, the office refers to the “development of a new [system].” Somehow the “evaluati[on of] possible solutions to replace the current antiquated tools used by Appraisal Services to develop the assessed value of residential and commercial properties” also referred to in the budget request is an all together yet to be defined project incorporating the latest in technology buzzwords "artificial intelligence" and "machine learning."

By the way, an open source site, makes it super-easy to look up the property taxes paid for any parcel in the Bay Area.


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