County streamlines tax collection system

LIVINGSTON – A major move to streamline the tax collection system was taken Wednesday when the Polk County Commissioners Court approved the purchase of a new integrated tax collection software/hardware package.

During the meeting, commissioners accepted a recommendation from Polk County Tax Assessor-Collector Leslie Burks to purchase the system offered by Harris True Automation at a total bid price of $221,227, including a maintenance agreement.

Burks told commissioners they had looked at the various systems being offered to the county – including trips to other area counties and appraisal districts to see them in operation – and decided that the Harris system would best meet the county's needs.

She noted that one of the major selling points for her was that the Polk Central Appraisal District (PCAD) already is using a Harris True Automation system. This means that when the new computer package is installed in the county tax department, the two offices can be linked electronically.

"Right now when we receive changes from the appraisal district, we have to enter them in by hand," Burks told the commissioners. "During peak times, that can tie up at least one of my people full time."
Pct. 1 Commissioner Bob Willis, who once served as the county's tax assessor-collector, also voiced his support for Burks' recommendation.

"When ever you have someone entering information in by hand, there is a chance for a mistake to be made," he said. By linking the two offices electronically, Willis said they would greatly reduce the chance of human error in the tax records.

The new system will replace one the county purchased 25 years ago. At that time the county's system and the one used by the PCAD were compatible and could be linked electronically, but over the years the PCAD had upgraded to a new system that could no long "talk" to the one used by the county.

In other business, commissioners approved the purchase of a new car for the district attorney's investigator at a cost of $29,589.87.

District Attorney Lee Hon told commissioners that he had only been offered $1,200 in trade for the existing car, a 2006 Dodge Charger with over 100,000 miles on it. After consulting with the commissioners, it was agreed that they would first offer the car to another county department but if none wanted it, the county would sell it through a surplus property auction.

Other action
During the meeting, the commissioners also:
Ratified the addition now being built on the PCAD headquarters in Livingston. The overall plan for the expansion and renovation of the PCAD office had been approved previously.

Approved a request from Maintenance Supervisor Jay Burks to install a new telephone system for use by his department at a cost of $1,600. Burks said the modern, Internet-based system being offered by

LivCom should solve a number of issue caused by the aging system now in place plus provide a number if new features. He said his office could be used as a test of the new system and if it works as advertised, it could be expanded to other county facilities such as the courthouse and the justice center.

Again tabled action on the county's Life Safety Code inspection system. The code requires inspections of buildings being built in the unincorporated areas of the county but commissioners suspended its enforcement last year when they were unable to find a qualified inspector. County Judge Sydney Murphy, who took office on Jan. 1, told commissioners she wanted more time to review the situation and planned to present a recommendation by February.

Ratified resolutions of appreciation thanking three county officials who retired at the end of 2014, including County Court at Law Judge Stephen Phillips, Pct. 4 Justice of the Peace Steve McEntyre and Bailiff George Bigler.

Appointed Murphy to serve as the county's representative on the Deep East Texas Council of Government's board of directors. She will replace former County Judge John Thompson, who retired at the end of 2014.

Approved requests from two constables on the appointment of new reserve deputy constables. Bigler, who recently retired as a bailiff, was appointed as a reserve deputy for Pct. 1 Constable Scott Hughes and Jerry Vaughn Grissom was named as a reserve officer for Pct. 3 Constable Ray Myers.