IAAO recognizes governmental units and individuals involved with assessment that integrate best practices in the workplace. This challenging and rigorous program is a self-conducted evaluation of specific, accepted, assessment administration and appraisal practices as defined in the IAAO publication Assessment Practices: Self-Evaluation Guide. Interested jurisdictions should review all of the materials below and direct questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Congratulations to the entire staff of the following assessment offices on the achievement of the IAAO Certificate of Excellence in Assessment Administration! Click on a name to see details.
In 2012, Washington County, Arkansas Assessor’s Office became the first jurisdiction in that state to earn the CEAA. Former IAAO President Debra Asbury was pleased that a jurisdiction from her state succeeded in the program during her presidency and hopes that other will follow in their footsteps. Washington County wanted to participate primarily to find ways to improve their services to the citizens of the county. Besides making the decision to enter the program, the most difficult part of the process was sorting through the mountain of data, deciding what was relevant and to what degree.
Washington County had 6 primary contributors with input from 8 other staff members over an 8-month period requiring nearly 1,800 hours of work on their submission. The major change they would have made in retrospect was to have one author write the entire submission. They assigned individual chapters to team members based upon their areas of expertise and this was a good idea for the context of the question, but due to different writing styles this created a choppy look and read. Eventually, they did assign one author and thus created a much more professional document.
The best advice they have for interested jurisdictions is to take your time, establish a well-defined structure for the project, have only one writer but multiple reviewers, and remember that you can never contact your mentor enough. The sense of teamwork that came out of this project made the whole undertaking worth the effort. They had to work together as never before which built cohesiveness that would have been impossible to achieve otherwise.
The first jurisdiction to receive the CEAA, the Alachua County, Florida, Property Appraiser’s Office, believed that its business processes were exceptional and wanted to be the first certificate recipient in 2004. They recertified in 2010. To achieve this goal, four point people from various departments were selected: the Chief Deputy Property Appraiser, the Executive Director of Administration, the Executive Director of Valuation, and the Information Technology Director. These four representatives made the commitment to complete the self-evaluation with their respective staff members in the shortest time possible. The process ended up taking three weeks of focused, dedicated effort, plus many overtime hours. Glenda Walrath, IT Director, said, “In retrospect, we should have broken the project down in greater detail and assigned it to the responsible departments. In fact, when we worked on our five-year resubmission, we did that, and it was much more manageable”. The Alachua County Property Appraiser’s Office encourages jurisdictions that are interested in pursuing the certificate to give themselves enough time to go through the exercise carefully, and advises that, if they discover a process that does not meet or exceed the requirements, to use the Assessment Practices: Self-Evaluation Guide to assist in improving those areas. Walrath also advises, “In addition, have one person handle the administrative tasks of formatting and tracking the exhibits included in the document. Also, use your most knowledgeable staff to manage the self-assessment exercise”. The Alachua County office considers the CEAA recognition to be confirmation that it is a leader in the industry, along with the benefit that the journey itself created a strong team environment among the staff members who participated.
In 2011, Clay County became the sixth county in Florida to earn the certificate. Led by Roger Suggs, AAS, Property Appraiser, a team of ten people researched and prepared their submission in a little more than three months. Suggs said he knew that attaining the certificate would be a rigorous and challenging task, but he didn’t anticipate how the project would unite his office personnel and help them discover a new respect for the contribution of all departments. His recommendation to other interested jurisdictions is, “Don’t be intimidated by the process. Listen to your mentor and implement his advice. It isn’t supposed to be easy, but be honest and thorough, and the rest will happen.”
Hillsborough County, Florida Property Appraiser's Office earned their CEAA in 2014 and is the 11th Florida jurisdiction with the certificate. Hillsborough County Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez began his tenure in January 2013 by challenging the organization to re-think and re-invent its vision and re-invigorate a staff in transition. Working in conjunction with the strategic planning process, their office entered the CEAA program as an additional means of thoroughly taking stock of current procedures and practices. As a result of the successful completion, the CEAA has been added to their strategic plan, which guides the operations of the office. The staff plans to use it as a framework to ensure they are meeting their strategic goals and objectives for continuous improvement and best practices within the organization.
The Hillsborough County staff recommends that jurisdictions preparing a CEAA submission allow themselves enough time to complete it. They had set themselves a challenging timeline and found that although they were able to meet the deadline, “the process required extraordinary leadership and a close-knit team. In order to give our office more time to work on the final report, and avoid extra weekends and evenings in the office, it would have been beneficial to start the process earlier in the year.”
In 2008, the Lee County Property Appraiser's Office earned the CEAA and recertified in 2015. They perceived the certificate program as an opportunity to perform an in-depth review of current business practices and evaluate those findings according to the standards of IAAO. Jacquelyn Mabry, who works in Training & Special Projects at the Lee County Property Appraiser's Office said, "One of our most valuable lessons was that in assessment administration there are many options and choices in creating sound business practices and there is no harm in critiquing our own practices. Through critiquing, we can only move forward in a more appropriate direction."
In retrospect, the Lee County office would have spent more time in the planning stages. For a short time, many departments and employees were involved, thus creating many different templates, voices, and tones. This necessitated a revamp of the plan to assign one person to create one voice and one cohesive submission.
In 2012, Leon County, Florida Property Appraiser’s Office became the 11th jurisdiction to earn the certificate since the inception of the program, and the 8th jurisdiction in Florida to earn the certificate. Leon was already undergoing an office realignment in response to market changes and simultaneously preparing for a new CAMA system. What better opportunity to conduct an evaluation of office processes than to enter the CEAA program?
Leon County's advice to others is to identify the key person in your office for each chapter topic and give them 30-60 days to rough in responses to the submission. Those rough responses can be polished by one person assigned to compile the overall submission. This approach took approximately one year to complete the entire submission.
Their greatest benefits were the boosted pride of the staff from the successful process and the recognition from their peers at the annual conference. An added benefit is that the self-evaluation helps to identify office processes that need changes, and management staff can implement them as needed.
In 2015, Martin County, Florida Property Appraiser’s Office earned their certificate. Access Martin County's submission on their website.
"We strive to continually improve our processes and practices. We entered a submission for this award to measure our practices against the best practices in the industry. The process resulted in an expanded written procedures manual compiled into a comprehensive document that can be used for internal documentation and training purposes. We plan to post the manual on our website for public reference to increase public knowledge of the appraisal/assessment process. Knowledge is the key to understanding and trust. We are proud to be recognized as a model office for excellence in assessment administration by IAAO."
In 2012, Orange County, Florida Property Appraiser’s Office contributed to their state’s overwhelming lead in the number of certified jurisdictions. They have already undertaken a self-review to root out “institutionalized” processes that were not required by law and could thus provide budgetary savings. The CEAA program provided the formal structure for an agency-wide review of internal practices and procedures.
Their certificate offers confirmation to the citizens of Orange County and the public at large of their professionalism and best practices. For any interested jurisdiction, they advise you to take the project very seriously by setting a goal to learn from it and be a better agency because of the process.
The Osceola County, Florida, Property Appraiser’s Office earned their CEAA in 2010. They took a hint from the Seminole County office when newly elected Property Appraiser Katrina S. Scarborough decided to use the CEAA vehicle to review office procedures and processes to determine whether the office was following best practices. She also wanted the office to work together to achieve a worthy goal that would represent a testament to the employees for their dedication and hard work in servicing the public. As the office’s motto states, “The best PA office, because we care”. According to Scarborough, “While we have always been confident in our knowledge and processes, it was nice to see just how closely we follow the best practices in assessment, in accordance with the certificate program. It made everyone think about the steps in the management and appraisal process to see if there were any areas for improvement”. The office counted it as an advantage to know that it was doing things right. By analyzing everything and identifying areas for improvement, the entire office gained a boost in confidence. As a newly elected property appraiser, Scarborough found that public confidence in what the office is doing is a very valuable commodity. She recommends having a good mentor to assist with the certificate program, regardless of whether you’re newly elected or not.
The State of Florida has more certified jurisdictions than any other state, which includes the Pinellas County Property Appraiser’s Office, which earned the CEAA in 2011. It is the seventh county in Florida to receive the certificate, challenging other states to catch up with these overachievers. Led by Pam Dubov, CAE, Property Appraiser, the Pinellas County office staff organized ten primary writers who compiled the submission by gathering data from every department. It was an office-wide project. “We thought this would be a great way to showcase the hard work and commitment of our staff,” said Dubov, “and to show our constituents that we strive for excellence every day....and to ensure that we were using the best possible practices in all areas.” With the potential chaos inherent in such an undertaking, Dubov recommends assigning one person (or team) to coordinate and organize all participants, collect and compile all the chapters, and keep the timeline on track. “We also recommend reading the Assessment Practices Self-Evaluation Guide all the way through before embarking on the excellence journey as it will give you a good idea of the road ahead!”
In 2012, Sarasota County, Florida Property Appraiser’s Office became the tenth jurisdiction from the state of Florida to earn the CEAA. They recently underwent many procedural changes in their office that have resulted in a high-quality work product and improved taxpayer service. To quantify their progress, they wanted to analyze all of their processes to identify strengths and weaknesses, and the CEAA is a very comprehensive evaluation tool with a vast amount of information required for the submission.
The process took them about seven months, during which Sarasota County found a deeper appreciation and understanding of the expertise and knowledge held and shared by the members of the staff team. They also learned that it is important to self-assess to implement best practices and ensure that the agency stays on top of industry standards. To interested jurisdictions, Sarasota recommends using the mentor early and developing strong top to bottom commitment among the staff.
Seminole County, Florida Property Appraiser’s Office recertified their CEAA in 2012 which was originally earned in 2005 when they were the second jurisdiction to become certified. They recommend that all certified jurisdictions review the requirements for recertification as soon as the CEAA is earned so that you can track employee’s education, legislative changes, and major operation changes over the next five years. This will make the recertification process much easier when the time comes. The recertification process involves submitting four chapters of the jurisdiction’s choosing, a summary of legislative changes, and a summary of employee continuing education.
Ada County, Idaho Assessor’s Office in 2012 became the first jurisdiction in that state to earn the CEAA, but hopefully more will follow suit. Ada wanted an independent evaluation to benchmark their processes against industry best practices. Over the years, they have taken several steps to evaluate their operations to ensure the highest level of service. But the achievement of the CEAA provides the independent validation that they are meeting or exceeding industry standards and continually enhancing their service.
The evaluation process brought attention to some areas of weakness that allowed them to improve upon procedures and yielded the greatest benefit to their jurisdiction. Employees that are typically focused on their own areas of responsibility had the opportunity to work with management on the evaluation which produced a greater level of understanding by everyone. The culmination of this project has made the Ada County Assessor’s Office a better place to work as well as raised the level of service provided to their stakeholders.
IAAO is pleased to recertify the third jurisdiction to ever receive the CEAA, the Johnson County, Kansas, Appraiser’s Office. They originally earned the certificate in 2005, and in 2011 they completed the requirements of continuing commitment to superior assessment administration. Led by Paul Welcome, CAE, Property Appraiser, the Johnson County staff have demonstrated consistent utilization of best practices.
In 2013, Carteret County, North Carolina Tax Department became the first jurisdiction in North Carolina to earn this distinction. The Tax Administrator put together a team of eight people to conduct the self-evaluation, which took a full 12 months to complete. The most difficult part was maintaining the commitment to follow through. The level of detail needed to answer the questions satisfactorily required research and analysis, which turned out to be a valuable teaching tool for all the staff.
Carl Tilghman, Tax Administrator says, “I have always known that we have a competent and effective appraisal staff, and I wanted them to get the recognition they deserve. What I did not realize was the tremendous educational benefit our staff would receive from the research and analysis required to complete the submission. God has blessed our county with some truly dedicated and talented people to provide this vital public service.” Carteret County is proof that even smaller jurisdictions can have quality mass appraisals and be a leader for all of the counties in their state.
City of Regina
In 2013, the City of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada Assessment, Tax, and Real Estate Department became the first jurisdiction in Canada to earn the CEAA. Two of the corporate values of the City of Regina are to be “Performance Driven” and “Accountable and Focused on Excellence.” The CEAA dovetails perfectly with these two corporate values and is the only avenue available to an assessment jurisdiction to be objectively recognized in attaining these goals.
With many individuals working in an assessment jurisdiction, each performing their assigned tasks and responsibilities, it’s easy to develop a narrow focus within one’s area. Responding to the questions posed in the CEAA served to broaden Regina’s focus and provided a thorough understanding of all the tasks that are undertaken by numerous people and departments to produce a complete and high quality assessment product. The City of Regina benefitted in three ways from completing the CEAA program:
- A more thorough understanding and appreciation for the work that each and every staff person does.
- A strong sense of pride in the work and product of the assessment branch and the administrative groups that support the assessment function.
- A clear understanding of the areas in which they need to improve.
In 2012, Davidson County, Tennessee Assessor’s Office became the first jurisdiction in that state to earn the CEAA. They initially entered the program because they recognized that having the IAAO, the preeminent authority on assessment administration, independently and objectively determine that they are meeting standards and best practices in the appraisal profession will enhance the public trust. Nineteen staff members were directly involved with writing the submission, a process which took precisely 358 days from start to finish. In retrospect, Davidson County would have applied sooner for the program to get an earlier start.
The most valuable thing Davidson County learned about its jurisdiction is that assessment administration, in all its facets, must be, at its core, about providing high-quality service to the taxpayers and property owners of the county. They recommend focusing on organization on the front end of the project as it is a significant and complex undertaking and not to procrastinate so as to meet the one-year deadline.
Dallas Central Appraisal District
In 2013 Dallas County, Texas Central Appraisal District became the 19th jurisdiction to earn the certificate since the inception of the program, and the 3rd jurisdiction in Texas. Dallas CAD recognizes IAAO as the lighthouse for our industry with regard to establishing best practices to ensure fairness, equity and professionalism. To have IAAO independently and objectively determine that the Dallas CAD is meeting appraisal standards and best practices is paramount. Being a strong supporter of IAAO, it was extremely important for Dallas CAD to achieve the IAAO Certificate of Excellence for validation that the Dallas CAD is conforming to best practices.
In 2010, Dallas CAD successfully completed a Methods and Assistance Program (MAP) performance audit review conducted by the Property Tax Assistance Division of the Texas State Comptroller’s Office which required a comparable level of materials and documentation thus facilitating the development and completion of the IAAO Certificate of Excellence submission. Due to this recent review, it made this task more plausible.
The most important recommendation Dallas CAD would give to other jurisdictions is to properly document practices and processes and to be as transparent as possible. Rick Kuehler, Director of Administration says to “explain in your own words how your organization conducts business. Tell your story, be proud of it, and make the necessary changes in your practices and processes to move your organization forward.”
El Paso Central Appraisal District
El Paso Central Appraisal District (EPCAD) had just completed a comprehensive audit, and exceeded in all categories. The CEAA they earned in 2012 would confirm internationally this level of excellence they strive for while also being an opportunity to help them identify opportunities to improve. It would further serve to demonstrate their continued commitment in gaining public trust. The Texas Property Tax Division’s direction of applying all IAAO standards as a matter of law or rule in the near future was further motivation to proceed towards the CEAA.
The process began when Ms. Dinah Kilgore, Executive Director/Chief Appraiser attended the 2011 IAAO conference in Phoenix, AZ. After meeting with recipients of the CEAA, her excitement for this designation was passed on to her management staff. That excitement grew and the staff was able to complete the process and submit all documentation by April 2012. Ms. Kilgore would like to take this opportunity to express her thanks to her entire staff of 140.
For EPCAD, it was a confirmation of their level of dedication to superior performances and service to the public that meant the most. It sent a positive message to their Board of Directors and citizens that EPCAD is committed to a very high level of performance and adherence to the high standards of assessment administration. Another benefit is the power of recognition of their employees. They see that their efforts and hard work are being noticed by their peers in this business. They can also see they are bringing a positive spin to a negative subject (taxes) to their community. This in turn is giving them the drive and excitement to continue to excel and lead into the future.
EPCAD’s advice for being successful is to plan, plan, plan. Here are a few points they recommend:
- Give yourself plenty of time.
- Get a copy of the Assessment Practices Self-Evaluation Guide and review it before taking on the submission for the CEAA. This will help in identifying some of your strengths and weaknesses.
- Set up a committee to keep track of time tables and chapter completions.
- Pair your strongest writers with your technical people to create the responses in the most complete and concise manner.
- Where multiple departments have input to a response have them formulate the answer in committee and then add data that applies only to their individual department.
- Have one lead writer who will compile all entries/chapters into a presentable document for review by the committee.
EPCAD invites more jurisdictions from Texas and around the world to enter the program because the more jurisdictions that succeed, the more prestige is gained for all certificate recipients. A rising tide raises all ships.
Harris County Appraisal District
In 2014, Harris County, Texas Appraisal District became the sixth jurisdiction from the state of Texas to earn the CEAA. The district decided to pursue the CEAA because “the new chief appraiser felt it was a good opportunity for a rigorous review of the strengths and weaknesses of the organization. While completing the CEAA report, we learned that our district consistently utilizes the best appraisal and assessment practices in the industry." Earning the CEAA has allowed them to assure their taxpayers that they are “getting the best return on their dollars.” In addition, the process assisted the district in framing its strategic plan for the future of the office.
HCAD assigned specific tasks to 12 key staff members to complete the submission. Other staff provided additional support as needed. The process took the core team about 5 months to complete. When asked what challenges they faced in preparing the submission the staff replied, “the most difficult part of the process was ensuring the report flowed cohesively since many writers were involved.”
Taylor Central Appraisal District
In 2012, Taylor Central Appraisal District became the first jurisdiction in Texas to earn the certificate. It was a long road for Taylor CAD spanning a two-year time frame due to the challenges of workloads and rigor of the program. They advise others to enter the program early and do not wait until the spring to get started. Writing the submission takes a coordinated effort of many staff over several months, and the grading process can also take a couple of months. The grading must be completed by the time the Executive Board meets in July for the jurisdiction to receive the certificate at the annual conference.
Taylor CAD boasts of using the certificate as a tool to train new employees and to give all employees a better understanding of their processes. The icing on the cake is the message to the general public that our district is professional and recognized by the leading assessment organization for our best practices.
Wichita Central Appraisal District
Wichita County, Texas Central Appraisal District earned their CEAA in 2013. They felt that while they were already providing above average service to Wichita County, achieving CEAA status would give the entire staff the confidence to know that all of the implemented changes over the previous years did in fact elevate the quality of their product. The CEAA process is similar to the Methods and Assistance Program (MAP) conducted by the Texas state Comptroller’s Office, however this is not a pass or fail, but rather a self-evaluation.
Being competitive in a friendly way, other appraisal districts in Texas have achieved this recognition, and Wichita CAD wanted to be in this elite group of assessment offices. They had a total of eight staff assigned to the program. Each senior appraiser was responsible for the chapter pertaining to their responsibilities: residential, commercial, land, and personal property as well as the cartographer on mapping. The other chapters were completed by executive management. Although they spent approximately five months on it, Chief Appraiser, Eddie Trigg says “We would have started the process in August or September when staff isn’t as engaged in the January 1st assessment date and the production of values for appraisal notices.”
Wichita CAD’s best advice for candidates is to request a mentor early on in the process as he/she can help you get started on the right track. Don’t get over whelmed by the size of the project, break it down by chapter. Look within; many times your assessment office is performing a process without realizing how it relates to IAAO Standards.
Williamson Central Appraisal District
In 2013, Williamson County, Texas Central Appraisal District contributed to their state’s burgeoning number of certified jurisdictions by being the 4th to earn it. Williamson CAD wanted to analyze their current policies and procedures to ensure they were meeting IAAO standards. The self-analysis the CEAA process provides allowed them to have confidence they are providing the highest levels of appraisal and service to our citizens and taxing jurisdictions.
Williamson CAD had a total of 10 people involved in the process including both managers and directors and spent approximately four months from start to finish. The most valuable learning experience for them was the complete overview, and in some cases, overhaul of their procedures. “Everyone has the intent to keep procedures up-to-date with current processes, however most do not follow through with it,” said Alvin Lankford, Chief Appraiser. “That was the case in our office, and this process gave us the chance to “catch up” on the changes. We have incredible procedures now.”
City of Alexandria
In 2012, the City of Alexandria, Virginia Department of Real Estate Assessments became the 19th jurisdiction to receive the certificate since the inception of the program in 2004. They completed the grueling process of self-evaluation and submitted the final project for grading in just 4 short months. The greatest benefit to Alexandria was the rigorous process itself, which involved a high level of objectivity and teamwork to complete. They gained knowledge of both the areas where they excelled and the areas where improvement was needed.
City of Hampton
In 2011, the City of Hampton, Virginia, Assessor’s Office became the first city assessor's office to earn the certificate since the program began in 2004. Led by Brian Gordineer, AAS, the office completed the grueling process of self-evaluation and submitted the final project for grading in just three short months. “Our team had been working for two years on team building, process analysis and re-engineering,” said Gordineer, “and the positive efforts and productive outcomes needed to be validated by an objective measure. In completing the submission there were several activities that the team had not previously considered, and we adopted these new beneficial practices.”
Not only is Hampton the first city to ever earn the certificate, but it is also the first jurisdiction in the state of Virginia to receive the CEAA.
City of Portsmouth
The City of Portsmouth, Virginia Assessor's Office earned their CEAA in 2014, making them the third jurisdiction in the state of Virginia with the certificate. Over the past several years the Portsmouth Assessor’s Office has instituted a number of improvements to more closely reflect IAAO assessment administration standards. Preparing a submission for the CEAA program afforded the office the perfect opportunity to closely review not only policies and procedures but also the staff’s overall knowledge and understanding of mass appraisal.
The submission process and the submission itself served as an outstanding learning tool for the entire staff. Furthermore, they were better able to understand the importance of keeping pace with today’s technology. This process gave them increased confidence in the recent decision to advance the technology in their office. Earning the certificate provides the taxpayers with the knowledge and assurance that the Portsmouth Assessor’s Office is operating at the highest level of industry standards.
The Portsmouth Assessor’s Office wants potential candidates to know that IAAO provides all necessary materials and instructions that are needed to be successful. In addition, each submitter is provided with a mentor and “this particular tool is invaluable and should be used with the understanding that the mentor is available to answer questions and assist with potential problems and most important –the mentor wants the submitter to be successful.”
In 2015, Fairfax County, Virginia Department of Tax Administration became the 1st county in Virginia to receive the certificate. They say: "We are very excited that the International Association of Assessing Officers, the preeminent assessment organization in the world, has awarded the Fairfax County Department of Tax Administration with the Certificate of Excellence in Assessment Administration. The need for sound financial stewardship in local government is critical and this certification is a validation to our stakeholders- Fairfax County taxpayers, the elected Board of Supervisors, and senior County management- that DTA is performing its vital mission in conformance with best practices in the assessment industry. The IAAO’s Certificate of Excellence aligns perfectly with DTA’s mission “to uniformly and efficiently assess and collect County revenue, provide high quality customer service and promote an empowered, well-informed community."
King County, Washington Department of Assessments Office recertified its CEAA in 2014; it was originally earned in 2008. The recertification process involves updating four chapters of the original submission, summarizing legislative changes since the original submission, and providing an inventory of employee continuing education during the period of certification. Completing the recertification made King County aware of how much technology has changed for assessors since the original submission. Staff members also noted that the process of completing a CEAA submission has improved since 2008.
They believe the third party validation from the certificate helps to build confidence in property owners, elected leaders, and taxing jurisdiction partners that the office is following best practices in assessing property. For King County, earning the confidence of the taxpayers is important because the property tax constitutes 45 percent of the county’s General Fund revenue.
This process has taught King County staff that there are many similarities among assessment operations in different jurisdictions despite differences in legal frameworks. They also learned that it is important to review processes and procedures on a regular basis to ensure best practices have not changed. Their successful resubmission demonstrates that their policies, procedures, and business processes continue to match best practices for the industry.
More than ever, IAAO is encouraging its members to integrate best practices into the workplace. We are confident that the example set by these offices will inspire others to pursue a documented program of excellence in assessment administration.