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L.A. County Offers Update on Assessor Modernization

An official from the Los Angeles County Assessor’s Office discussed the entity’s ongoing Assessor Modernization Project and a proof of concept during a recent webinar.

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A local assessment entity that’s the largest of its kind in the nation is already achieving efficiencies as officials complete an ongoing technology project.

The Los Angeles County Assessor’s Office — the largest of its kind in the nation, with 1,300 employees — is working with Oracle to do a better job of administering a property tax system that generates $17 billion a year. Among the takeaways:

  • The office’s contract with Oracle is part of the Assessor Modernization Project (AMP), which is focused on addressing an aging technology landscape with more than 120 “stovepipe applications,” officials said in 2015, as well as limited functionality and a “complex, high-volume and paper-intensive environment.” The assessor’s office for the nation’s largest county by population oversees an assessment roll of $1.7 trillion — generating revenue that funds important social services — on a mainframe that’s about 40 years old, Scott Thornberry, the office’s director of operations, said Thursday during a webinar with Oracle leaders. That mainframe, Thornberry added, “sits on pieces of technology” that are even older.
    “We’ve been able to accomplish all that on these old technologies but we are growing out of it and we are now working with newer technologies,” he said.
  • The AMP, the assistant assessor said, is a five-phase project that has already converted approximately 125 million paper documents to digital and automated a number of processes. Officials, Thornberry said, are “now in the big push to finally replace all of the assessment roll pieces that will replace all the mainframe.” He described it as “in production,” and with staff “relying on it to do their jobs.” Among previous milestones, the project’s Phase I yielded AMP’s “overall enterprise architecture and foundation,” according to a 2019 letter to the county Board of Supervisors. Its Phase II yielded “additional functional components,” while Phase III saw processes developed to “intake, manage and initiate data and documents to support new AMP business processes.” Phase IV, for which the letter sought approval, was aimed at delivering still more functional components to AMP. The project has also included modernizing the public-facing Assessor Portal, which enables the search of records, maps and photos. Twelve county departments involved in property taxation use the portal, including the Treasurer and the Public Health Department.
  • In February, Thornberry said, the office was able to move its system entirely off its internal cloud to Oracle Cloud, realizing “huge” cost benefits. The office has also begun a proof of concept (POC), he said, describing it as “an application using machine language to help us with ... some of our appraisal processes.
    “We expect to, and we already have, gain some efficiencies both in creating more time and resources for our human resources to do more complex tasks,” Thornberry said, describing the office’s goal as integrating and expanding the project scope to potentially include targeted use cases around real estate market analysis, business development and stakeholder management, and assessment roll forecasting. In the POC, Joe Hahn, Oracle data scientist, said he, company staffers and cloud engineers amassed 10 years of property transactions which they ingested into the company database in the cloud. Hahn wrote code, he told webinar attendees, to train the machine learning model using that data to predict the critical market value of single-family homes sold during the past decade across the county. It’s possible, he said, to achieve the assessor’s use case — using algorithms to accurately assess property values — “with great efficiency and great accuracy.”
Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Techwire.