With Selectboard approval, Bernardston Board of Assessors changing software

  • Bernardston Town Hall. Staff File Photo/Paul Franz

News Editor
Published: 1/28/2022 2:21:00 PM

BERNARDSTON — The Selectboard has approved using up to $8,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, as well as up to $2,000 from the Board of Assessors budget, to invest in new software and a server for the Assessor’s Office.

The Board of Assessors — consisting of Chair Stacey Mousseau, Russell Deane and Melissa Murphy — came before the Selectboard on Wednesday to pitch changing from the town’s current property assessment software, Tyler Technologies, to Patriot Properties. The latter, they said, is used by 146 towns in Massachusetts, including Greenfield, Montague and Northfield nearby.

“It’s not working well,” Mousseau said of the software from California-based Tyler Technologies, which Bernardston has used for two years as it comes recommended by the state. Specifically, Mousseau said Assistant Assessor Jill Watrous often has problems with the software producing erroneous assessments, largely in the case of new buildings or new lots. The company, however, often takes “days, weeks sometimes” to respond to Watrous’ requests for changes.

“They don’t know anything about Massachusetts,” Deane said. “The turnaround time to get something fixed is unbearable. … These guys don’t care if they fix it today or six months from today.”

“If our software system doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do, we can’t get tax bills,” Mousseau added.

Changing to use Patriot Properties, however, requires about $10,000 in upfront costs between a new server — an additional tower to be installed in the Assessor’s Office that will back up the data — and the software itself. The company helps with implementation of the software system, and the annual cost of $2,500 to use it will come from the Board of Assessors budget. According to Mousseau, the town will save about $1,300 annually over using Tyler Technologies’ software.

The Selectboard supported the Board of Assessors’ proposal, including a suggestion to potentially offset the cost with ARPA funding.

“If we’ve got junk, we need to get rid of junk,” Selectboard member Stanley Garland said simply.

The board voted to use up to $8,000 of its ARPA allocation for the project. Another $2,000 will come from the Board of Assessors budget. However, Town Coordinator Lou Bordeaux, when reached by phone Thursday, said the full amount voted may not be necessary because the town, which has about 800 parcels of land to document, won’t need a server as large as the one in Patriot Properties’ minimum proposal to store its data.

Mousseau said work toward changing the technology would start as soon as the Selectboard gave its approval, with hopes that the new system will be running smoothly by the time the next round of property tax bills need to be sent out. She noted it is a good idea to keep the old software around during the transition to retrieve any lost data.

Reach Shelby Ashline at 413-772-0261, ext. 270 or sashline@recorder.com.


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