By Wayne Allen
Several Scioto County offices are debating the best way to have the county’s tax maps placed online. According to multiple sources the issue revolves around funding.
Currently Scioto County Engineer Craig Opperman has a system in which members of the public can ask for a copy of a satellite picture of a particular plot of land. Every inch of Scioto County has been plotted out for tax purposes and is available through this system. A copy of the system is also available in the Scioto County Auditor’s office.
The problem with the system the county currently has is that it has not been updated since Aug. 12, 2013, and Opperman said his office does not have the money to fund an update. He said a system update would cost about $70,000.
While the debate over the county’s current system is ongoing, the Scioto County Commissioners, Scioto County Auditor, Scioto County Prosecutor and Scioto County Engineer’s offices have been looking at a system that would allow for the tax map records to be put on the internet.
The commissioners have stated putting the tax maps online will allow for greater access from the public and officials. If someone currently needs a copy of a tax map they have to travel to the Scioto County Courthouse and visit the engineer or auditor’s office. Having the records available online would eliminate that necessity for most.
On Monday, the Scioto County Board of Elections met, and a topic for discussion was precinct maps. During the meeting it was made known they are out of compliance with current regulations because they can’t get updated precinct maps, because the county is not updating the tax map system. As an alternative, the board of elections is considering going to an outside firm to get the maps they need.
“We’ve been talking about this for over two years, trying to get the tax maps online like they need to be. Every county around us is (has their tax maps available online),” said Mike Crabtree, chairman of the Scioto County Commissioners. “We have talked to Craig (Opperman) about this, he has talked to Dave Green (Scioto County Auditor). He (Opperman) keeps coming up with reasons why he can’t use the system Dave Green has available.”
Crabtree said he has looked into what systems are being used by some of the surrounding counties.
“It looks to me what Dave Green has proposed is just as unusable as (what some of the) surrounding counties (are using). I don’t know what it is Craig is trying to accomplish, but we’re willing to give him money like we have in the past to make sure this works, but not to keep the same system he’s got going on now,” Crabtree said.
Crabtree asked, if the surrounding counties can have a system to put their tax maps online that’s acceptable by its users, why can’t Scioto County do the same? Commissioner Skip Riffe said there has been at least two meetings where someone from the Scioto County Prosecutor’s office has been involved.
“We don’t fully know what all of Craig’s issues are with it. In my opinion is if he’s not going to come around and we get an OK from the prosecutor and we do it ourselves,” Riffe said. “There has to be some participation from the engineer. Those things have to be updated and kept updated. As we were talking earlier those records belong to the people, they belong to the taxpayers. If Dave Green needs X and he asks Craig for that, Craig should be able to give that to him.”
Riffe said those records do not belong to the commissioners and they do not belong to the engineer, they belong to the people of Scioto County.
“Dave Green has been ready to go with this for almost two years. This coming March he will have been ready for two years,” Riffe said. “We met last year and said by Oct. 1 we want to have these online and nothing happened.”
Crabtree said Opperman will update the maps if he gets the funding, but the county also want them online.
“It’s like this, if you have an old Chevrolet and you wanted this new Cadillac worth $50,000. You have two options you can spend $50,000 updating the Chevrolet or just go out and buy the Cadillac,” Crabtree said.
When asked about the issue, Opperman did not deny he is refusing to update the maps because he does not have the money to update them within his department.
“The prosecutors has advised the commissioners on multiple occasions they are obligated to pay for it. I’m refusing to do it because how am I supposed to pay for it? I can’t legally do something I’m not allowed to do. Yes, the auditor’s office has proposed an Internet system, that has never met requirements that we feel are necessary to operate the system. They ware wanting to produce a substandard system, than what we have now. Nobody is providing us any money to update them and we have not been able to update them because we have no money.”
Opperman said it would take $70,000 to have someone update the maps, and the prosecutors office has advised he would have to oversee that person.
“To say they are going to do it themselves would be an improper statement according to an opinion from the prosecutors office,” Opperman said.
In September of 2013 the Scioto County Commissioners received a legal opinion from Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Danielle Parker concerning the location of tax maps terminal. In the opinion Parker wrote the terminal should be kept in the Scioto County Auditor’s Office, Opperman acknowledged there is a tax map terminal in the auditor’s office, but there is also a terminal in his office as well.
Parker also wrote, “Section 5713.09 of the Ohio Revised Code provides that the board of county commissioners may designate the county engineer to provide for making, correcting and keeping up to date a complete set of tax maps of the county, and shall employ the necessary number of assistants.
Parker said it’s important to note that just because the public terminal is located within the auditor’s office, the commissioners are still required, “If it has previously designated the county engineer to make, correct and keep up to date the county tax maps, to employ the necessary assistants and appropriate funds from the county treasury for the draftsman. Thus, moving the tax map terminal does not eliminate the statutory requirements to provide funding to the Scioto County Engineer for making, correcting and keeping up to date tax maps if the engineer has been designated by the board to do so.”
Riffe said if Opperman would agree to update the maps and agree to put them online, he does not see that money would be an issue.
“The bottom line is, it needs to be done and it needed to be done two years ago, Riffe said.
Scioto County Auditor David Green had no comment on this story.
Wayne Allen can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 1933 or on Twitter @WayneallenPDT