DNS Configures Tax & Assessment Web Application for Erie County


 

Background

Erie County is a place where information is managed, from gathering, storing, and organizing information to distributing information to residents and businesses.  Traditionally, a primary function of a county courthouse is maintaining and managing a comprehensive range of information services for customers living within the domain of their county. Today, consumers demand county information which is available online. It was vital for the county to instill a secure online solution to manage and organize the traditional tax and assessment information services.

Situation                                                                                                

The responsibility of maintaining and managing tax and assessment information within any county government is typically held by a few departments with separate goals and budgets.  As separation of responsibilities is normal so is the differing information technology within those departments.  A tax department may choose a Linux operating system to manage servers, along with open source database to store the information resulting in a zero-dollar startup cost, whereas the assessment department selects a licensed solution with widespread support and service and pays licensing and an annual support fee. 

While both concepts will work, they rarely work well together.  This is what occurred in Erie County; two or more different departments with different ideas about software needed to supply people with current, accurate and relevant parcel information.  The information consumers however, (citizens, realtors, financial institutions, and other professionals), hardly ever care about operating systems and databases when it comes to locating information about their land parcel or tax bill.   The solution below describes how Distributed Network Software, LLC (DNS) solved the differing technology dilemma in Erie County, Pennsylvania.

Solution

DNS was contracted to put county assessment information online.  Since tax and assessment information was initially stored in the same database, it was a relatively simple task to parse unnecessary data and display relevant parcel information in a browser.  The county assessment software used at the courthouse is a mixture of COBOL and PASCAL languages that stores data in an Oracle database.  The assessment database is stored on-site and maintained by the assessment software provider. 

Transforming the tax and assessment data from the assessment server to a meaningful web application required intermediary processes that were not available on the assessment database server.  DNS used Microsoft SQL Server to pull assessment data into the intermediary server and then transform the data into meaningful web-ready assessment and tax information.  The transformed web-ready information is then pushed to a web server for citizens to use for parcel and tax lookup. 

Administrative officials elected to host the assessment web software at Distributed Network Software’s commercial hosting facility for enhanced bandwidth and redundancy.  Shortly after the initial setup, DNS provided online delinquent tax payment for Erie County citizens.  Parcel owners are currently able to pay delinquent property taxes online using secure transactions.     

After a few years of popular usage, the tax functionality in the assessment software was replaced by separate tax collection software that resides on a RISC server.  DNS now pulls data from the assessment server as well as from a separate tax server.  The different platforms with different operating systems and databases, that is compiled of common tax and assessment data, is now automatically transformed  into web-ready information.  This information is used by thousands of web users daily, located in all parts of the world.  DNS uses Microsoft Visual Studio IDE, SVN source control, and Process Tracker software to manage this enterprise project. 

Benefits

The result of transforming data from many different servers into usable web-ready information allows citizens to view and verify their parcels from their living room.  It allows web users to research comparables and email parcel information to any valid email address.  The daily information includes:

  • Sales information
  • Parcel Maps
  • Page and Book numbers
  • Comparable sales based on location, type and distance
  • Owner information
  • Parcel photographs

Users can now go to the county courthouse’s website to get valuable tax and assessment information online

 

Distributed Network Software, LLC 3250 West Lake Road Erie, PA 16505 PH: 814.838.5151
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