Department of Audits and Accounts
The DAA is responsible for creating an equalized adjusted property tax digest for each county in Georgia and for the state as a whole. These tax digests are used in the Quality Basic Education (QBE) funding formula to determine state allocations to local school districts, which total about $2.2 billion annually.
The data necessary to create equalized adjusted property tax digests come from many sources, including property tax digests for each of the state's 159 counties, public utility and railroad tax digests, about 400,000 real estate transfer forms, about 3,900 real estate appraisals, and varying numbers of county property tax assessment records. To create equalized adjusted property tax digests, the DAA uses the collected data to perform sales ratio studies, which compare assessed values and market values.
A change in state law reduced the amount of time allowed for creating the equalized adjusted property tax digests by six months. In response to the change, the DAA's IT Division built the Sales Ratio system to replace time-consuming, manual work with more efficient, automated analytics and data management. Preliminary digests can now be produced in 12 months instead of 18, and final digests can be produced in 16 months instead of 22.
The system is comprised of a central system and a Java desktop application. The central system was built with GRAILS, a web-based framework, and an Oracle RAC cluster as the backend for high availability. The GRAILS framework uses the latest web-based Java technologies like Hibernate, Spring, and Groovy.
The desktop application works with the central system to download and upload hundreds of thousands of records. DAA staff no longer have to manually review reach record; instead, the system uses a business-rules engine to process information and eliminate transactions that provide invalid indicators of market value. The central system matches data across sources, thereby reducing processing time while increasing accuracy. In addition to automated data reporting and processing, the central system supports GIS features using Google's mapping service, trending, graphing, and data analytics. Numerous complex reports are built into the system and can be exported to Excel for further research and analysis. The desktop extension allows field staff to work in remote locations across Georgia while accessing services from the central system.
Another benefit of the system is the ability to easily calculate the financial impact of proposed legislative changes on QBE funding. As a result, unintended consequences that could prove detrimental to funding for education can be avoided.
The automation made possible by the system means that four office staffers can now each spend the equivalent of three months annually assisting field appraisers. Assistance from office staffers coupled with improved data and file management mean field staff can now each spend the equivalent of two months annually on other appraisal-related activities, such as analyzing trends in the real estate market. Labor-related savings are estimated at $350,000 annually, and office staffers are seeing opportunities for promotions.