Very often, a municipal government winds up owning important data that’s not connected to the municipal management system. Sometimes it’s delivered by a consultant, or the state, or is the result of a one-off project that relied on contractors. In many cases, it would make sense if that data could be linked to existing data. However, folks usually assume that that would involve an expensive and lengthy custom project.
Over the years, SDL clients have asked about the data that they owned and wished could be tied into their SDL data. When there’s enough interest, or the idea just plain makes sense, SDL’s Desktop development team can often find a way to make things happen and give them to users as part of a maintenance release. The result of this is new functionality that you may find useful and already have available…if only you knew about it.
SDL Desktop has a number of built-in data import tools that exist because an SDL user asked for them. Some of these may be useful to you…but, more importantly, when you have a need that’s not already in the software, we’d like you to reach out and tell us about it. (While we take all software suggestions into consideration, we cannot guarantee that every idea will be seen in an update of the software; however, many of SDL Desktop’s current features started as requests from our users.) Some important, but lesser-known tools and features found in the SDL Desktop software include Importing Tax Map Data, Importing Parcel Pictures, Importing VCS Data and Property Notifications.
Importing Tax Map Data
Many SDL clients have wondered whether they could import tax map data into the Desktop software. Parcel maps are not always accurate and deeds are often complex, so the tax map is often considered to be the right balance between accuracy and usability for homeowners, or others who want to easily identify property boundaries.
In order to file that link, users will need:
- Block/Lot/Qualifier info
- The number of the map sheet that includes the property
- A link (either a local link or a URL to maps hosted online)
If you’re using SDL Desktop, have tax map data and would like to import it, we would be happy to show you how.
Importing Parcel Pictures
Suppose you need to share or use specific property pictures not available via Google Maps… that’s not a problem with the Desktop software. If you have the photos (or are planning to get them), let us know and we can show you how to organize them so they can be used in your Desktop environment in a matter of minutes.
Importing VCS Data
The town you work for may be one of over 200 municipalities in New Jersey who have contracted Appraisal Systems, Inc. to assess property values. If that’s the case, you already own useful VCS data that can be pulled into your SDL Desktop software.
What is VCS data?
When properties are re-assessed, appraisers treat a municipality as a collection of neighborhoods, where each building in a neighborhood shares some characteristics with others. The idea is that changes in the relative values of properties are partly tied to the neighborhood. If a waterfront area becomes popular, property values on the water might appreciate more quickly than properties further inland, so it’s useful to define a waterfront neighborhood for purposes of assessment.
The VCS data set is the table that links each property’s address to its assessed values, but also to an entire neighborhood, offering a free data point to an SDL user in the tax assessor’s office.
When a tax assessor in Essex County asked if the data could be imported and tied to the SDL database, the SDL Desktop team came up with the VCS Data Import tool, a free upgrade for SDL users. While the data in the figure below is fictional, it shows a data set in the format delivered as part of Appraisal Systems, Inc.’s re-valuation process. If you have block/lot/qualifier information and VCS values (shown as “NHBD” in column E below), and you need it in your data set, give us a call. You might be using this in SDL Desktop sooner than you think.
Whenever data is shared across a municipality, it makes sense that co-workers can share information with one another. This isn’t a new idea, but some Desktop users occasionally find themselves calling colleagues to say “You need to know that this property…” Some of them have asked whether we could help with that, so we added Property Notifications to the software.
The Property Notifications feature lets Desktop users share circumstantial information across departments. While the municipal team itself decides what kinds of notifications can be made available via a dropdown box, typical selections are “Historic District”, “Vicious Pet” (a good one when your colleagues are visiting properties every day), “Vacant Property”, “Sewer/Septic” and pretty much anything you think could help avoid problems in day-to-day business.
Notifications can be manually deactivated, but since no one wants to set reminders for things to do in the distant future, you can set an expiration date when you set up the notification.
Let us Know What you Think
So there you go… you now know of several useful features that you already have available to you (and at no extra cost), all because your colleagues asked if they were possible. We hope you find them useful. And remember, we understand that every day brings new challenges to your job. If you have an idea, and we can help you out with it, we’d love to hear from you.
If you need assistance with any of these features, be sure to contact our support team at (732) 357-1280 or firstname.lastname@example.org.