At its regular meeting on Oct. 1, the Graham County Board of Supervisors chose to assist financially with the purchase of a computer program that will make the process of searching for information regarding land parcels simple and much quicker.

In 2009, when state budget-makers were getting creative in finding ways to stretch out their thinning budget, many departments suffered cutbacks, and the assessor's office was no exception.  State offices once maintained an information bank where land information could be easily found, but was forced to get rid of the program when the budget shrank.  

Since then, the responsibility of providing information to current and prospective landowners, such as like taxes owed, square footage and local land value, has fallen onto the shoulders of county employees.

"We get calls all day long asking for this information and have almost no time to do anything else," said Chief Deputy Assessor Brooks Bryce.

When searching for a more efficient way to manage, county officials came across the "Property Information Search" on Navajo County's Web site.  The link offers several methods by which one could identify the piece of land in question, including street number, owner name, book map, parcel number or tax ID.  County officials at the board meeting discussed the feasibility of purchasing and maintaining a similar program.

The total cost of purchase and installation is estimated at about $22,000.  The treasurer's office plans to contribute $7,000, and the assessor's will give $5,000, leaving $10,000 for the County to pay.  Money for the assessor's portion will be withdrawn from the Taxpayer Information Fund, which is a special fund set aside specifically for upgrades in technology to benefit county residents, and will not be taken from the county's general fund.

Though the board was in agreement that the Web site is a worthwhile investment, no decision could be made during the meeting as to where the county would find the money for its $10,000 portion.  County Manager Terry Cooper suggested that the Highway Depart-ment may be willing to contribute since maps are built by Highway Department employees.  Public Works was also a suggestion as a funding source since Navajo County's Public Works Department purchased the system for Navajo County.

"We want to make more information available to the public without their having to come down to our offices to get it.  That way, it will be more convenient for residents and occupy less of county employees' time, and therefore be more efficient all around," Supervisor Jim Palmer said.

The board meets again on Oct. 15, at which time more details will be available.

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