Some Milford City Council members are questioning a portion of an agreement made with Tyler Technologies regarding how the contracted company maintains the city’s assessment records in lieu of an in-house property tax assessor.

Some Milford City Council members are questioning a portion of an agreement made with Tyler Technologies regarding how the contracted company maintains the city’s assessment records in lieu of an in-house property tax assessor.

On March 18, City Manager Richard Carmean signed the annual contract with Tyler Technologies to maintain Milford’s assessment records on an annual basis for a rate of $685 per day, not to exceed $27,400 in a year. Because the contracted work is estimated below $30,000, City Council approval was not required, according to Milford City Clerk Terri Hudson. Council members did, however, approve the contract as part of the 2013-2014 fiscal year budget, without specific discussion regarding the agreement.

The same agreement was signed by Milford Mayor Joseph “Ronnie” Rogers in 2013, and has been discussed during public City Council meetings since 2011. The contract is intended to be a yearly agreement over a 10-year period, to maintain property assessment records before the next required reassessment cycle in 2022. Milford’s charter requires property reassessments at least every 10 years, Hudson said.

However, some City Council members, including Allen S. “Skip” Pikus, Owen Brooks and Garrett Grier III, questioned how Tyler Technologies has been conducting its annual property reviews during a Finance Committee meeting Thursday morning.

Pikus said he called the meeting because of confusion among some City Council members, himself included, and some Milford residents who received notices of a change in property value assessment.

“Most of council, myself included, are confused with the direction the new people are going,” Pikus said, referring to Tyler Technologies. “We hired them to keep our records updated, add the new [construction] and do a segment of the town. Then all of a sudden, a certain amount of people got bills for their new assessment. Very few people knew these letters were going out. I don’t know of any city officials that knew.”

If any change in property assessment occurs, city officials are required by the city’s charter to notify those property owners in writing, explained Deputy City Clerk Christine Crouch. The notifications are automatically generated and allow property owners to appeal any assessment changes with the Board of Revision and Appeal, which is comprised of City Council members, Hudson said.

Property owners who received the notice of a change of assessment letters, which were sent out on April 17 to more than 2,100 property owners, were informed of a possible decrease or increase in their assessed property value, and were also informed that the letter was not a tax bill. The letter specifically states that residents should not multiply the new assessment by the current tax rate, which is 46 cents for every $100 of assessed property value, Crouch said.

The yearly contracted work with Tyler Technologies eliminated the need for a full-time tax assessor, which previously cost the city more than $70,000 per year, and is intended to avoid another hefty bill when the city’s next mandated reassessment rolls around, Carmean explained. In 2012, when all of the properties in Milford were reassessed by Tyler Technologies, it cost the city $261,200, according to City Council minutes from the July 11, 2011 meeting during which council approved the Tyler Technology as the only bidder with a vote of 6-1. Councilwoman Katrina Wilson was absent and Councilman Steve Johnson, Bryan Shupe’s predecessor, represented Ward 1 at the time of that vote.

Pikus, the chairman of the Finance Committee, stated during the meeting that he, and allegedly other City Council members, were unaware that the agreement with Tyler Technologies included an annual revaluation of property values, which is dependent upon market trends.

“We’re doing the right thing by doing a little bit each year, but I was disappointed with the way it was done last month,” Pikus said. “The way they sent new assessments out – that was not what was intended, in my opinion. That was not done for the purpose of raising taxes or raising what they pay in taxes.”


Tyler representative outlines company’s duties

Paul Miller, of Tyler Technologies, explained that the contract with the city, which outlines seven main duties regarding the upkeep of the city’s property records, includes “annual sales and economic review, making adjustments as needed to stay within IAAO standards,” meaning that those properties farthest out of line with current market values would be recalculated, regardless of whether or not they underwent any new construction or deconstruction.

“We have no intention of doing anything you guys don’t want to do,” Miller said to the council members present at the Thursday morning meeting. “The adjustments we’re talking about … are an annual process you signed up for. Instead of having a 10-year gap, we’re making small adjustments all along.”

Pikus and Grier both commented that their impression of the agreement with Tyler Technologies was that the company would update records and keep information current so that at the end of the mandated 10-year cycle for city-wide property value reassessments, all of the information would be readily available.

“Our goal was to keep our data upgraded, not to increase revenue,” Grier said, as he pointed out that he didn’t think property value reassessments, and the resulting difference in property taxes, would take effect until 2022.

Miller explained that Tyler Technologies doesn’t make changes to increase tax revenue, but rather to maintain the equity of property values.

“There’s no reason for us to adjust to a current market and freeze it for 10 years,” he explained.


Proposal to prevent unwanted property reassessments

Miller offered to alter the city’s current agreement with Tyler Technologies to eliminate unwanted property reassessments. Even with a revised contract, Tyler Technologies would continue to maintain assessment records for the city’s 5,604 parcels, performing 10 percent of the city’s needed field work assessments on a yearly basis, focusing on any properties experiencing construction or deconstruction, like an added garage or demolition, and a random sample of properties so that 100 percent of properties are inspected within a 10-year period, Miller explained.

“It’s a misunderstanding,” Miller stated during the meeting. “Every property was looked at for revaluation. The 10 percent is just field work. We just have to amend what we said we’d do.”

Lifelong Milford resident, landlord and property owner Joe Wiley, who owns 24 properties in city limits, said he was a little surprised when he received change of assessment notices for 23 of his properties.

Wiley said he saw a variety of changes in his property values, from as little as a 1 percent increase to a 25 percent increase, and wasn’t sure why such a large number of his properties were reassessed when it was understood that Tyler Technologies would be taking random samples.

While he said he sees the savings realized by the city through the Tyler Technologies contracts and elimination of an in-house tax assessor, that it isn’t fair that some properties have been reassessed in 2014 while other property owners may not see a reassessment until 2022.

“It was good that [the Finance Committee] made it clear that this wasn’t what they intended for Tyler to do,” he said. “This is not what the charter says to do and it seems like it’s not a fair system.”


What’s next?

The Finance Committee is expected to recommend to City Council that the letters sent on April 17 are repealed, and that the city revises its agreement with Tyler Technologies so that property value reassessments on those properties not experiencing construction or deconstruction do not take place until the next 10-year mandatory property value reassessment in 2022.

According to the City of Milford’s website, assessments are performed quarterly in January, April, July and October. Those property owners who were notified of a change in assessment in April can file a petition of appeal by May 15, with an informal appeal review in May and a formal appeal review on June 24. For more information, contact City Hall at (302) 424-3712.