Communication Inter-Departmental Communication Local Government
The Assessor's Data - An Untapped Resource for Local Governments

The Assessor's Data - An Untapped Resource for Local Governments

By Tracy Blanchard at CIDARE, Inc.
Dec 06, 2023

The assessor's data

Available to every local government is the assessor’s data, which can help improve disaster planning, provide situational awareness to police and fire, and enable better, more targeted planning for neighborhood development. Surprisingly, in an age when government leaders rely on current, accurate data to make strategic decisions and improve the lives of constituents, most local governments fail to realize the full potential of the assessor's data. 

Big data - assessors have been experts a long time

Remember that data is nothing more than raw stats and statistics. It needs to be turned into information through directed analysis and interpretation. Assessors are skilled at directed analysis and interpretation - they transform raw land and building data into the property value, the information.   

The information assessors produce, however, is not worth much if one forgets that data is perishable - data goes out of date and is no longer current, accurate, or useful in a short amount of time. Again, assessors understand the perishability of data; they spend a lot of their time making sure the data they use is current and accurate. They either employ an in-house data collection team or they hire a data collection partner, both of which focus on making sure existing data is current and accurate and incorporate new property data into the assessor's database after visiting properties.

Thus, availble to the assessor and others is a data set contains a lot of information, but that is usually only used to provide one kind of information - property values.

The new kinds of information that can come from assessor's data

When the assessor’s data is used outside of property valuation, its true value is revealed. This article by the National Association of Counties (NACO) outlines some of the less-explored ways that assessor’s data can be used by local officials to benefit their citizenry:

Rich, valuable property information maintained in the computer assisted mass appraisal system (CAMA) can be combined with aerial imagery to do rapid damage assessment following a hurricane or tornado. This same information can be taken into the field to assess damage and collect additional information for application for FEMA funds, for example. This collaboration, between systems and departments, is enabled by easy-to-use services. Data gains value when shared. If every city and county department depends on your data, it is more valuable. You can create data once and use it many times. In some cases, data is collected and maintained to a higher standard just so it can be used by more departments [emphasis added]. For example, there are many county assessors across the county that map parcels more accurately than they need to for assessment, but by doing so, public works, engineering and other departments can use the data without duplicating a parcel map of higher accuracy.

The NACO article highlights how property information can be used for a completely different purpose from valuing property, in this case responding quickly to a natural disaster. Notice that the assessor's data collection team collected more data than was needed precisely because the assessor and emergency response teams knew that the property data was being used for more than just valuation. 

There are a myriad of ways that the data collected by assessors can benefit the public. If assessors have good sketches of a neighborhood, for example, police or firemen have better situational awareness when they pull up to a property to address an issue. In the event of a natural disaster, insurers can have a more accurate picture of property values and emergency plans can be put into place more effectively. Likewise, local leaders can offer targeted assistance to neighborhoods who are struggling economically. The key is getting the different stakeholders in government to work together.

How do we get stakeholders working together?

Getting stakeholders working together begins with the assessor reaching out an helping other departments learn about the information found in property data and brainstorming how property data might be used within a department other than with the assessors. There are many ways to help foster discussion. Some suggestions include: 

  • Data sharing - Data sharing is a crucial aspect of collaboration among municipal departments, including assessors and local government leaders. It involves creating a system where different departments can access and share data with ease, ensuring that relevant information is available for decision-making and planning. This can include property data, zoning information, mapping data, permit data, and other relevant information that can help assessors and local government leaders in their respective roles. Having access to comprehensive and up-to-date data allows different departments to work together effectively and make informed decisions that benefit the community as a whole. How can the assessor make their system more open?
  • Pamphlets – Creating pamphlets that highlight the roles and responsibilities of assessors and local government leaders can be a helpful way to educate other departments and stakeholders about their functions and how they are interconnected. These pamphlets can provide a concise overview of the work done by assessors and local government leaders, their goals, and the ways in which they collaborate. Distributing such pamphlets to relevant departments and stakeholders can help create awareness, promote understanding, and foster cooperation among different departments.

  • Meetings – Assessors can organize regular meetings to facilitate communication and information sharing between themselves and other local government leaders. Monthly or periodic meetings can provide a platform for representatives from different departments to come together, discuss ongoing projects, share updates, and address any challenges or concerns. Such meetings can foster collaboration, build relationships, and promote a culture of teamwork among assessors and local government leaders, leading to better coordination and synergy in their efforts to serve the community.

  • Conferences – Yearly conferences or workshops can be organized to bring assessors and local government leaders from different districts or jurisdictions together to discuss areas where collaboration can be enhanced. These conferences can provide opportunities for knowledge exchange, best practice sharing, and brainstorming on innovative ways to improve collaboration and better serve the community. Conferences can also facilitate networking, relationship building, and mutual understanding among assessors and local government leaders.


Assessors are essentially data brokers, whose work has the potential to be of enormous value to local leaders. The information assessors collect can help to ensure that local governments aim their efforts to best meet the needs of their constituents, while saving time and resources currently spent on acquiring duplicate data that assessors have already collected. Improved safety, quicker response time to disasters, economic plans that have optimal impact where they are most needed are some of the benefits that can result from collaboration between assessors and local governments. To ignore the obvious benefits of this collaboration is a lost opportunity, ultimately paid for by the taxpayers who fail to reap the inherent benefits of a more integrated approach to data sharing. 

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