★ Accomplishments ★
Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder & Chief Elections Officer Mark Church's first priority in assuming office in January 2011 was a department-wide reorganization to meet the changing needs of the organization, streamline operations, maximize productivity and improve efficiencies. The staff reorganization was accomplished with minimal changes to the existing staffing numbers and net county cost.
In an effort to ensure that employees are held to the highest ethical standards, policies were initiated prohibiting incompatible activities, the use of county resources for private gain, and the performance of duties that are a conflict of interest with department employment. The policies initiated are:
- Policy of Incompatible Activities of County Employees
- Policy regarding Procedures for Maintaining the Integrity of Assessments of Employee-owned Properties
A new website has been developed and launched. The website utilizes state-of-the-art architecture with enhanced search capabilities and interactive features allowing 24/7 access with mobile devices. The new website provides an expansive set of tools for the public to download and submit forms online.
Geographical Information System (GIS)
The Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder’s Geographical Information System (GIS) was a manual hand-drawn mapping system utilizing antiquated technology and in extremely poor condition. Under new leadership, new technology has been deployed allowing the production of digital Assessors’ maps for the public with precise and reliable data. The new GIS will modernize the Assessor’s parcel layer, tax rate area and election precinct layers. It will be the foundation for the County and municipal GIS systems impacting over 220,000 Assessor parcels.
The Department’s continuing "Green Initiative" has been expanded. This project allows auditors and appraisers to easily access real and business property scanned images to support the valuation, auditing and appeals work that they do.
Each year, 100% of the Assessment Roll, comprised of all tangible real and business property in the county, was successfully completed on time. For FY 2016-2017, over 220,000 units of real property on the secured roll and over 15,000 units of business/personal property on the unsecured roll were assessed for a combined value of $206 billion.
Assessor Property Assessment System (APAS)
When Assessor Church assumed office in 2011, the Assessor’s Property Assessment System was an aging legacy system at the end of its useful life. An extensive Request for Proposals was initiated to replace the Department’s 20-year old system. Staff devoted over 3,000 hours to develop the requirements for that system, and to evaluate the responses to the RFP. The RFP included over 1,600 business requirements and 80 use cases.
A vendor was selected to implement the APAS project over a three and a half year timeline. The APAS project will utilize new cutting-edge technology that will assist staff in managing all aspects of the local combined roll. APAS will provide the public and the county’s 70 jurisdictions immediate and accurate access to the extensive Assessor’s parcel database.
The Assessor is at the forefront of the workflow of property tax assessments, assessment appeals, billing, collection and distribution of revenue. The Assessor System must interface with 20 municipal planning and building departments along with the County's Planning and Building Department.
Created Appeals Team
In 2011, the Department faced a growing backlog of 3,682 outstanding Assessment Appeals. To address the growing backlog, best practices were developed and implemented to reduce the backlog. An appeals team of appraisers to handle all residential and commercial appeals up to $10 million was immediately formed. The creation of a team of appraisers specializing in appeals resulted in a standardized approach in the presentation of appeals, and a more efficient and timely disposition of appeals.
Reduced Appeals Backlog
In 2011 and 2012, the Department faced a backlog of over 5,000 cases. The outstanding appeals were successfully addressed through the implementation of best management practices, the creation of an appeals team and the development of the new valuation model for Decline in Value properties. Also, five additional temporary appraisers were appointed to perform regular activities such as Change in Ownership and new construction valuations.
The new policies that were initiated helped to mitigate the unprecedented backlog of assessment filings from a high of over 5,000 cases to approximately 1,000 cases currently.
"Decline in Value" Process Improvements
The Assessor’s Decline in Value program allows for a temporary reduction in the assessed value of a property when the current market value falls below the current assessed value. The program has provided millions of dollars of property tax relief to property owners.
An approach was developed that enabled appraisers to value these properties in a more efficient and fair manner. The outcome was a valuation model for Decline in Value properties that produced comparable sales with adjustments for variables between the comparables and property being reviewed. This new valuation model resulted in a 15% to 20% increase in the efficiency of the Decline in Value process.
The number of parcels participating in the program has been reduced from a high of 37,000 parcels in 2011 to 2,100 parcels in the program currently. This has resulted in billions of dollars in assessed value being restored to the assessment roll.
Assessment Appeals - Preservation of Taxable Value
The Assessor’s Opinion of Value was successfully defended against major corporations before the Assessment Appeals Board and the courts, resulting in the preservation of billions of dollars in assessed value.
Assessor's Annual Report
To improve transparency of the Assessor’s operations, the Assessor's Annual Report was initiated commencing FY 2013-14. The Assessor’s Annual Report provides a detailed overview of the Assessment Roll and the Property Tax Process. The report is filled with valuable information, statistics and charts for the public, elected officials and business leaders to use as a quick reference tool to obtain a better understanding of the assessment and property tax process.
California Assessors’ Association Annual Conference Host
In October 2015, the annual statewide conference for the California Assessors’ Association was successfully hosted in San Mateo County, bringing together government officials and leaders from throughout the state to discuss and share best practices for Assessors and their staffs, which was well-received by the attendees.
County Clerk-Recorder Division
Implemented Qmatic Digital Scheduling and Time Management System
Due to the heavy volume of traffic in the Clerk-Recorder Division, a scheduling and time management system was implemented which increased employee efficiencies and improved the customer experience.
As a result of the system, people are assigned a number, on a first come first serve basis, and directed to the appropriate counter and staff person. This has improved the customer experience and employee productivity.
Public Portal Homepage
More user-friendly features were implemented on the public records portal, to make it easier for the public to access and retrieve documents in the Clerk-Recorder Division. The public can now submit online requests for records, which saves staff time and reduces our carbon footprint.
U.S. Department of State Passport Processing Facility
Although not a state mandated service, the County Clerk-Recorder Office has been maintained as one of the few walk-in Passport Processing Facilities in the Bay Area. It is one of the busiest walk-in facilities with 6,788 applications in FY 2016-17, a dramatic increase from 2011 when there were just 168 passport applications. Passport services provide an important service and satisfy a growing need in the community.
Electronic Recording of Documents
The electronic recording of documents has grown exponentially in the Clerk-Recorder Division. In FY 2010-11, the number of electronic documents recorded was 679, and in FY 2012-13 this number grew to 41,223. e-Recording is a more efficient and convenient method of recording and has resulted in cost-savings and faster recordings.
Social Security Number Truncation Program
Phases II (1997 to 2008) and III (1980 to 1996) of the Social Security Number Truncation Program were initiated and completed in the Clerk-Recorder Division. Phase I (July 2008 to day forward) is ongoing. The Social Security Truncation Program was initiated to protect against identity theft by redacting social security numbers from records, retroactively and prospectively, prior to disclosing them to the public.
Technology Software Enhancements
Numerous technology software enhancements were implemented to increase and improve efficiencies in the delivery of Clerk-Recorder services.
Those include LandDocs (faster search retrieval and printing of land records directly by customers); VitalDocs (providing data search capabilities for vital records to the public through public terminals); Cornerstone (improved cashiering services); and Filenet (upgraded database to facilitate searches for Fictitious Business Name statements, Coroner’s Reports and Exemptions).
California Association of Clerks and Election Officials Conference Host
In July 2013, the annual statewide conference for the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials (CACEO) was successfully hosted in San Mateo County, bringing together government officials and leaders from throughout the state to discuss and share best practices for city/county clerks and elections administration.
Registration & Elections Division
Vote by Mail Ballots (VBM)
Vote by Mail continues to rise in popularity in San Mateo County. The Registration & Elections Division conducted the first countywide all-mail election to fill the seat on the Board of Supervisors vacated by then Supervisor Church. That historic election saved taxpayers approximately $500,000. The savings resulted since no time, money or effort was spent to secure polling places, test hundreds of pieces of voting equipment, hire and train poll workers, deliver and secure voting equipment to hundreds of locations, and unpack and account for the materials after election day.
San Mateo County All-Mailed Ballot Election Pilot Program (AB 2028)
Chief Elections Officer Church provided critical testimony in support of AB 2028 before the Assembly Committee on Elections and Redistricting and the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments. The bill, co-authored by Assemblyman Kevin Mullin and Senator Jerry Hill, authorized San Mateo County to participate in an all Vote by Mail election pilot project.
On November 7, 2015, San Mateo County conducted the first countywide Consolidated Municipal, School and Special District All-Mailed Ballot Election in the State of California. This historic election resulted in increased voter participation and significant cost savings to participating jurisdictions, which ultimately led to the passage of landmark legislation, the California Voter’s Choice Act (SB 450).
California Voter’s Choice Act (SB 450)
San Mateo County has the distinction of being recognized as a leader in the state in elections and has been chosen by the State Legislature to be one of the first counties to conduct All-Mailed Ballot/Vote Center elections under the California Voter’s Choice Act. The June 5, 2018 Statewide Direct Primary Election will be the first such election conducted under the Act.
In accordance with the Act, a comprehensive Election Administration Plan, including a Voter Education and Outreach Plan, was prepared and approved by the Secretary of State.
Accessible Vote by Mail System (AVBM)
The State’s first Accessible Vote by Mail System for visually impaired and disabled voters under AB 2252 was implemented in the Registration and Elections Division. The new AVBM system allows visually impaired and disabled voters to receive and mark an electronic ballot using screen reader technology. This allows such voters to participate in the electoral process privately and independently.
Accessible Sample Ballot
One of the state’s first accessible sample ballot systems for visually impaired voters was also implemented in the Registration and Elections Division.
Voting Accessibility Advisory Committee (VAAC)
The County’s first VAAC was established to evaluate ADA requirements at polling places and to provide advice on improving election services to persons with disabilities and the elderly.
Language Accessibility Advisory Committee (LAAC)
The County’s first LAAC was established to expand voting opportunities for voters in language minority communities.
New North and South County Voting Centers
Two new 29-day Vote Centers in South San Francisco and East Palo Alto were established to better serve voters in the North and South County.
Voter Education and Outreach Advisory Committee (VEOAC)
The County’s first VEOAC was established to facilitate education and outreach activities with community organizations and voters.
Outreach, Social Media and Public Service Videos
The Registration and Elections Division participated in numerous community events, increased our social media presence and produced educational videos for voters and Elections personnel.
Conducted 25 Elections
The Registration and Elections Division has successfully conducted 25 elections.
The 25 elections conducted include: two Presidential Primary Elections, two Presidential General Elections, one Gubernatorial Primary Election, one Gubernatorial General Election, three Countywide Local Consolidated Elections (UDEL), one Consolidated Municipal, School and Special District Election, and fifteen special elections.
Ongoing Review of Registration and Elections Division Procedures
An ongoing review and a continuous improvement process of policies and procedures were implemented in the Registration and Elections Division. Many of these procedures have been in place for several years and recently, have been amended or modified to improve the level of operations. In light of the many challenges including limited staffing and resources, and the complex and ever-changing environment of election laws, technologies and regulations, an ongoing process of procedural review is essential for the efficient administration of the elections process.
Go Green Program
In 2011, the "Go Green" program, which provides Sample Ballots electronically to voters instead of a paper version in the mail, was implemented. This optional program is convenient for voters, reduces our carbon foot print and saves taxpayers' dollars.
Information Technology Unit
Continuity of Operations Planning (COOP)
Recognizing the importance of implementing industry best practices to achieve continuity of operations and the protection of essential data, in the event of a large data loss or disaster, a Continuity of Operations Plan was initiated to ensure the continuity or return of the organization to operation. The Plan includes critical information as to essential functions, delegations of authority, orders of succession, alternative facilities, communications, and human capital management.
Phase 1 of the Continuity of Operations Plan was finalized, which includes the identification of alternative sites and the creation of “blue prints” to identify and restore essential services in each division of the Department.
Disaster Recovery and Data Replication
Improvements to the department's information technology data storage infrastructure were initiated, dramatically increasing the speed, reliability and capacity of the department's data and storage files. The replacement of the existing servers resulted in an increase in storage and backup capabilities. With the expanded data storage, the Department now fully replicates its data in two locations to support recovery and operations.
Virtual Server Implementation (Replacement of Legacy Servers)
In a continuing effort to ensure the department stays ahead of the technology curve, a strategic decision to place the department's file and data storage in a Virtual Memory (VM) Environment which reduced the number of existing servers from twenty (20) to four (4). VM-Ware servers were added to complement the transition to a new SQL Server and to create a more robust VM environment. The reduction in the number of servers resulted in significant operational efficiencies and cost savings due to lower equipment and maintenance costs and less electricity needed to power and cool the 20 servers. Also, the Virtual Environment made available office space that was previously required to store the 20 servers.
Electronic Document Management System Upgrades
The Department's document management system, FileNet, was expanded and upgraded to include welfare exemption documents and all APN photos to improve efficiency and productivity. These upgrades improved the speed and reliability of the system. In addition, workflow data between the Appraisal and Recorder staff is more secure, and the new system provides maintenance and support levels that were not available in the prior version.
PC and Software Upgrades
To ensure employees are provided with the latest tools and technology, 65 new PCs were rolled out to replace aging computers and migrate all of the machines to an MS Windows 7 or Windows 10 and MS Office 2016 environment. As with all newer technology, the new computers are faster, more economical to run and significantly increase staff efficiency.
SharePoint Roll Out
Document libraries were developed for all major Department technology projects (e.g. APAS, COOP, Website Development, GIS, etc.) to execute file sharing and collaborative editing.
Government to Government Document Process (G2G)
The Department now accepts Government to Government (G2G) document process for the Franchise Tax Board (FTB) and Department of Child Support Services (DCSS).
e-SECURE System for Title Document Submission
Five new vendors were added for submission of electronic documents instead of paper documents. This has greatly expanded the Go Green strategic plan goals. It also expanded the public’s ability to search Grantee-Grantor recorded documents.
To overcome housing and transportation challenges, the use of virtual offices was expanded to support greater flexibility on how our workforce can accomplish their goals.