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Battiato Gives First State-of-the-Office Address; Says New Office Will Exemplify Communication, Information and Transparency
Omaha, NE—In her first “state-of-the-office” address, Douglas County Assessor/Register of Deeds Diane Battiato gave attendees a candid assessment of her first seven months in her new office—the Assessor/Register of Deeds. Battiato focused on what she called the “ups and downs, pluses and minuses, and smooth roads and rocky roads” of her first months.
Battiato said that her first goal after assuming office was to eliminate barriers to peak performance, such as a lack of intra-office communications, a lack of communication with the public, and a lack of staff needed to comply with statutory requirements.
“We, now, have an atmosphere of open internal communication where staff confers regarding office and field operations. We discuss ways to improve performance, and develop solutions. Slowly, but surely, we are becoming a team.”
Battiato also said that the philosophy of the office has changed, dramatically. Once viewed as an adversary by some taxpayers, Battiato is strongly promoting the idea that “we are stewards of our taxpayers.” To reinforce this, she has taken specific measures, such as a “personal-appraiser” approach.
“Each property owner now has a personal appraiser who knows his or her neighborhood, knows his or her home, and is our expert for that property,” Battiato explained. “We encourage property owners to call our office anytime to discuss any concerns he or she might have regarding the value of his or her property.”
Battiato is convinced that this approach, plus other measures, such as using an “overvalued/undervalued” list, and preliminary hearings, will go a long way toward building a more positive relationship with taxpayers, and reducing the number of protests filed, yearly. “I want to send a very clear message: We are going to do everything possible to ensure that communication, information and transparency become, and remain our way of doing business.”
Battiato also told the gathering that there still is one major barrier to overcome—the consolidation of both offices onto one floor. Currently, the Register of Deeds office is on the ground floor of the Omaha-Douglas Civic Center, while the Assessor’s office remains on the 4th floor. Although a floor plan has been designed that would merge the two offices, Battiato said the county board has refused to provide funding for the move. And a recent appeal to the Building Commission yielded the same result. The reason—no money in the budget.
Said Battiato: “I understand that money is tight. But the board should have planned for this eventuality three years ago when they promoted the merger idea as a cost-savings solution. Clearly, they had no plan. There have been no savings. And the downside for the taxpayer is this: If the offices don’t relocate to one floor, continuity will not exist, a disconnect will continue between offices, and effectiveness and efficiency will be nearly impossible to attain. The upside: If the board bites the bullet, as they should, and funds the relocation, we could see some savings … eventually.”
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