Finance Department officials say a regular review cycle of all Hawaii County parcels, developed and unimproved, would realistically take at least 7.3 years.
A 2012 report recommended the county conduct such a review every six years. Finance Director Nancy Crawford and Real Property Tax Division Administrator presented a report on a potential review to the county’s Real Property Tax Stakeholders Task Force on Thursday at the West Hawaii Civic Center.
“This is the goal,” Crawford said. “This is the standard we’re setting for ourselves and wish to achieve.”
Sitko said he broke down the number of work days per year, then split those days between field days and office work days. He estimated about one-third of the days, his appraisers can be in the field, assessing properties. Another third of their time is spent completing reports on those field assessments, with the remaining third dedicated to other in-house work, such as handling taxpayer questions, performing appeal presentations, conveyance tax certifications and other duties.
Right now, the county has 147,674 parcels.
“Our first and initial survey is going to take the longest,” Sitko said, noting that is because that is the survey in which the most errors — misclassifications and nonconforming properties — will be found.
He said it will also take a year to 18 months before his staff is up to speed on new technology they will use to expedite the property review process. That’s partly because Hawaii County is third in line, behind Maui and Kauai, for a new software vendor to install and train on that program, he said.
By 2015, Sitko said he wants to see his appraisers spend more time in the field, inputting data on tablet computers.
The county is also switching to Pictometry, using aerial pictures of the county to look for unpermitted construction or other property changes.
Pictometry is a technology that provides aerial photographs, taken at an angle to provide views of both roofs and exterior walls, to use for assessment analysis.
Sitko said he has requested, in the upcoming budget, funding to purchase software that will compare pictures to recorded data.
Right now, his employees are making those comparisons manually. The software can cut how much time it takes to spot possible discrepancies between county records and buildings on the ground.
An effort a few years ago to conduct a similar property review stalled, Sitko said, when he couldn’t offer a guarantee that the survey would reveal enough misclassified properties to recoup the $2 million survey cost.
He said he thinks his department does have enough field appraisers right now, but he would like another evaluation analyst.
The department now has one, and just conducted interviews for a second.
A 2012 report by the International Association of Assessing Officers made 40 recommendations to improve the county’s real property tax code and property assessments.
Email Erin Miller at emiller@west hawaiitoday.com.