Florida Property Appraiser Enhances Analysis with Data Analytics Solution
The Lee County Property Appraiser, a government office in Lee County, Florida (pop. 770,000), serves residents of Lee County by offering fair and accurate property valuation services. Appraisals are conducted to determine the appropriate value of properties in the county, which ultimately sets the basis for determining the amount of property taxes a property owner will pay annually. In addition to property appraisals, the office also tracks property ownership changes, maintains tax maps of parcel boundaries, and approves tax exemptions. The office also provides the results of approximately 550,000 real estate valuations to taxing authorities.
Report generation was cumbersome and occasionally not timely because accurate data analysis involved collaboration among multiple staff members, which caused delays and made the process lengthy. The need for a new way for staff to collaborate and engage with data more efficiently was clear.
The Lee County Property Appraiser's office implemented data analytics software that has enabled staff to more quickly communicate results and improve data analysis, helping them better serve county residents and provide exceptional service.
The property appraiser has the legal responsibility to determine the market value of a property based on activity in the real estate marketplace and to appraise property accordingly. This helps create a fair and equitable ad valorem tax roll (taxes based on the assessed value of the real estate) in compliance with Florida statutes. As such, the collection and analysis of data are central to providing accurate, reliable results for property valuations.
According to the Honorable Kenneth M. Wilkinson, Lee County Property Appraiser, "I've learned a lot over my 40 years in office. The primary concern in the mass appraisal business is to be equitable. Treating similarly situated homes and parcels of land differently is a good way to have your values and credibility questioned."
Wilkinson explains that the traditional way of evaluating results has been to analyze property data, request a report from the IT/Data Services team, and collaborate until the final data report was both reliable and valid. Throughout the process, data was sent to the GIS Department to produce a static value map. If additional analysis was needed, the process began again.
This process made collaboration among the different departments challenging and time-consuming. Wilkinson wanted a new solution to not only improve analysis but facilitate faster, more accurate results. Wilkinson tasked Chief Deputy James A. Sherron with the project.
"Traditionally, it could take an hour to figure out what we need. A request is sent to the help desk for a report, the help desk sends the request to the data person, and the data person and I have numerous exchanges. Then, the data services person sends me a spreadsheet, I approve it, and I send the spreadsheet to the GIS department to make a map," says Sherron. "We needed a process that made things more efficient."
Lee County Property Appraiser
Report generation for property valuation was a cumbersome process. Accurate data analysis involved collaboration among multiple staff members that caused delays.
The property appraiser implemented ArcGIS Insights to quickly communicate results and improve data analysis.
The overall data analysis process is now more efficient, enabling the appraiser to provide exceptional service to county residents.
An Esri customer since the late '90s, it was only natural that Sherron selected ArcGIS Insights to help improve data analysis and report generation. ArcGIS Insights is designed for iterative and exploratory data analysis. Sherron believed the solution would make analysis and collaboration much simpler, allowing staff to more easily review different types of data.
"There was never an initial expectation other than we wanted to examine and learn about the data from a spatial perspective. I was excited to see how it could help us with our work," says Sherron.
The county appraiser's office frequently uses time trending for property valuation, which is a method that allows them to use sales that are more distant from their assessment date by adjusting the sale price to reflect the impact of time. Sherron explains that the analysis allows his team to review multiple areas, including the impact on the sales prices per square foot.
"In valuation, we typically break the components down to the simplest term, in this case, sales price per square foot of living area. We then can compare properties using any number of groupings," says Sherron. "For this analysis [with ArcGIS Insights], the question we were solving for was a simple one. When I stratify time trended sales prices per square foot, do we maintain equity by location?"
He adds, "There isn't an incorrect answer. If there's some unintended bias in the review, we can now address it immediately with ArcGIS Insights."
The use of ArcGIS Insights has streamlined the data analysis process and given the appraiser's office the ability to better explore its data, yielding more accurate results. According to Sherron, ArcGIS Insights allows staff to do on-the-fly analysis that lets them be more proactive in verifying and reviewing valuations, rather than waiting for the traditional reported results.
"I liken it to taking a test and waiting for the results. With ArcGIS Insights, we have analysis, explanations, and answers prior to getting the results. It introduces an iterative process that will ultimately allow us to change the inputs where necessary to get a better end result," says Sherron. "Instead of just 'passing' the test, we know we can aim for an 'A' each time."
The visual display of ArcGIS Insights also helps staff better view, interpret, and analyze data. Sherron says that displaying data spatially allows staff to zoom in and view individual records as well as see an overview of all areas. They can also investigate down to the individual transaction level.
"[Viewing data on ArcGIS Insights] is incredibly more efficient than looking at tabular data, column by column, row by row, field by field," says Sherron. "We have the direction to go to the particular areas that seemed to be 'different' and figure out why and if there were changes needed."
The overall data analysis process is now more efficient. First, Sherron says, the ease in which staff can get started with ArcGIS Insights is much simpler with its drag-and-drop functionality. Users can simply drag data into ArcGIS Insights, pick a metric to analyze, figure out how to best present it, and go.
Also, with more streamlined analysis, ArcGIS Insights shortens the iterative process because feedback is instant with the maps, charts, and graphs available. According to Sherron, providing feedback and changes was previously days of effort; now, it's only hours of individual staff time.
"It's always about the turnaround time and the opportunity cost lost by having other staff doing the work. Now, a single individual can react and respond to the analysis rather than having to wait for four to five people to review their individual areas and respond," says Sherron. "I can directly import data into ArcGIS Insights and self-serve, and the rest of the staff have time to devote to other projects."
The overall feedback has been very positive since the implementation of ArcGIS Insights, and the Lee County Property Appraiser's office is enjoying the ease of collaboration among staff.
"That's one of the best parts of ArcGIS Insights. I can share the project and results of the analysis, and we can discuss it either face to face or over the telephone. That goes a long way to getting updates and changes to business processes," says Sherron.
"We always had the ability to prepare maps after we analyze tabular data, but now we can do the analysis on the map with the data. There is not a long or expanded period of figuring out what data to use or put on the map. ArcGIS Insights allows it all to be available."