Reassessment enters new phase; commercial data collection begins in city

November 1, 2013
Field data collectors from Tyler Technologies gather information about commercial properties in Washington as part of the countywide reassessment. - Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

For weeks, Washington County residential property owners have been told that Tyler Technology’s data collectors do not need to enter premises unless the owner invites them in.

That is still the case, but now that a data collector is examining commercial property, Tyler’s representative wants commercial property owners to know that businesses are the exception to the no-entry rule.

Because of standardization in residential construction, those who gather data for the countywide property reassessment have been able to measure dwellings and make some assumptions about what lies within.

Commercial properties, however, are unique. Wesley Graham, project supervisor for Tyler, said, “We need to get inside a building to see what the use of the building is. You can’t calculate from the outside what is office space and what is storage. It’s to their benefit if they allow us to come in to look at the premises, collect data and make sure it’s correct.”

If a business declines to give access to a Tyler Technologies worker, the firm will rely on property records already kept by Washington County, which signed a $6.9 million contract with Tyler in August after a five-year court battle with the Washington and McGuffey school districts.

Commercial data collection began Thursday in the city. One data collector can examine an average of 12 commercial properties, except for the largest of enterprises, each business day, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

And although businesses may have Washington mailing addresses, Graham said that Tyler is focusing, for now, on those that actually lie within the city limits.

Residents who are not at home when a Tyler data collector arrives will find a door hanger-style questionnaire upon their return.

The data collectors for commercial property do not leave questionnaires, Graham said, but if they don’t meet with a representative of the business on their first try, they’ll return.

The county has about 118,000 parcels, approximately 5,300 of which are commercial.

Graham said Tyler Technologies will be mailing out income and expense statements to businesses next year.

Meanwhile, residential data collection began Friday in Canonsburg Borough, according to Robert Neil, former Washington County chief assessor who is now the county’s consultant and project manager for property reassessment.

“We’ll stay in the city until we finish that up within the city limits,” Graham said. “And for a while we’ll follow residential data collectors to Canonsburg,” estimating that Canonsburg businesses could see a data collector by mid-week next week.

Barbara S. Miller covers politics, Washington County government and a variety of other topics for the Observer-Reporter. She is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in English and history. Follow her on Twitter @reporterbarb.

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