Supercharge Your Day with Possibilities (Spring 2016 Newsletter)

By: Toni Hible

As a new recruit to the Vanguard organization, I originally felt that I was too new to have something to share in a news article. After reading the terrific articles from past newsletters I definitely felt that I have much more to learn before tackling a demonstration article. Having said that, after recently reading “Monday Morning Choices” by David Cottrell, a book recommended to me by our very own Scott Johnson, I thought I could at least share some of the inspiring points written by Mr. Cottrell.

Every day starts with a clean slate and every work week starts with Monday. As Monday seems to be the day many people dread, I found it ironic that it was a Monday when I randomly selected this borrowed book to read. I felt this author did a terrific job covering a broad array of topics in the series of “choices” we make both personally and professionally on our road to be successful, including those evolving around our character/personal choices, our choice of actions and our choice of investments.

The author starts by stating that “it’s not what happens to us, but how we choose to respond to it” as it is easy to fall victim to negativity. Unfortunately, this is a pothole we all fall into at times since humans naturally like to complain (using far less energy than it takes working out a solution). Like a flu bug, this negative attitude can become very contagious. Our choice to handle it can be as simple as turning off the evening news when it covers yet another doom and gloom story or posting a positive message on a social media site. You may choose to list all the things that went wrong with our day or take a more personal approach by offering to listen or help a friend, neighbor or fellow co-worker as they deal with a problem they are facing.

As expressed many times in his book, the road to success means also making the choice to be committed. It is an attitude and requires passion to believe in what we are doing and is important enough to stay the course. Prior to joining Vanguard and even on my first day at the corporate office, several employees
shared their passion about what the Vanguard organization stands for and the services we provide in attempt to meet the individual needs of our clients. In achieving the success that Vanguard has experienced over the decades, a choice to do something different was essential along the way and is apparent by never being satisfied with the current performance and its ongoing search for ways to be even better.

Every success comes with many failures. Stumbling and falling are just part of life. However the author stated, with some irony, that the only difference between being in a rut and a grave is the depth. His implication is that intending to do something is not the same as doing it and that procrastination does not breed success. His theory that there are only 3 groups of people; “those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who wonder what happened” caused me to reflect upon which category I fall into at times.

The author takes another approach to handling choices by stating “courage is ultimately measured by how much it takes to discourage us”. He advises that most successful people find their success as a result of persisting beyond failures. I loved his reference to a favorite childhood tale “The Turtle and Hare” and thought is was a good illustration of persistence by showing this too is a choice we make. He also advises us to remove the words “I’ll try” from our vocabulary as it is often used as an excuse for not doing or completing a task.

Since my introduction to the rest of the Vanguard staff at our recent corporate meeting, I am prompted to be more proactive in regards to choices regarding investments. His statement that “strong positive relationships don’t just happen they require time, attention, understanding and willingness to see others’ needs to be as important as ours”. Essentially an “investment” of people. This investment includes not only getting to know our co-workers and clients but seeing those “angry” taxpayers as real people also.

Another example of this “investment of people” that he mentioned would be searching out mentorship opportunities to share your talents and skills with others. Upon making positive changes, learning how to be successful and forming new relationships, the proposal from the author is to give your gift, as sharing your legacy is a lasting choice that a person can make. Note that only time and wisdom are required to give this gift without a price tag.

In closing, the idea behind all these choices is that you cannot be successful in life unless you accept responsibility for your attitude and actions. Furthermore, by sticking to your objectives and investing in other people, it allows you to achieve personal and professional growth.

Shared below are just a few questions the author raised at the end of each section, along with several of my favorite quotes from others that were mentioned in his book.

Is it really possible to accept total responsibility for things that happen to us? Does the buck really stop with us?

Name a person who is an inspiration to you. Describe the traits of that person. Are “passionate” and “committed” two of the traits you described?

What prevents us from moving off “someday isle”?

What was the most significant “failure” in your life and how did you move beyond it?

What if everyone imitated our attitude? What impact would that have on the organization?

What can we do to develop a positive relationship with those around us?

Can you name a person you respect who has a negative, cynical attitude about work and life?

Is there a time when criticism can be correct but wrong and why is our natural instinct to become defensive about criticism?

Think about those who have shared their legacy with you; a relative, coach, a professor or current boss. What specific legacy do you think you can offer to another?

“Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.”

William Jennings Bryan

“You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.”

Henry Ford

“Courage is the resistance to fear, mastery of fear—NOT the absence of fear.”

Mark Twain

“Every winner has scars.”

Herbert Casson

“We make a living from what we get; we make a life from what we give.”

Winston Churchill

“The thing about dreams is sometimes you get to live them.”

Payne Stewart

“How far you go in life depends on being tender with the young, compassionate with the old, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak/strong as someday you will have been all of these.”

George W. Carver

Facebook Photo Contest (Spring 2016 Newsletter)

Our Facebook Photo Contest for 2016 has been revealed featuring some of our clients sporting Vanguard bumper stickers this past year.

Those represented this year includes:

* Justin Barlow (Appraiser – Sac County, Iowa)
* Ann Bernhardt (Tax Director – Emmons County, North Dakota)
* Ashley Lund (Polk County, Minnesota)
* Sue Barnhart (Franklin County, Missouri)

Don’t forget to visit our Facebook page and to “Like” your favorite photo!

CAMAvision Year-End Processes (Spring 2016 Newsletter)

By: Danielle Powell

NOTE: Each state may have additional steps to the year-end process. Contact VCS Technical Support for further assistance, if needed: 1-800-736-8625 or support@camavision.com.

1. Verify that you have a good backup of all databases before running year-end processes.

2. Archive with Vanguard (optional)

a: Contact VCS Technical Support to schedule Archive process.

b: Verify that the data in your Certified has been archived (or sent for archive processing) before running any other year-end processes.

NOTE: Certifying values to start working file for new year could wipe out the previous year file entirely if not archived prior to certify process.

3. Maintain Certified (from Working, found in Batch menu)

a: Certifying for year-end process should always: Create New Parcels and Copy Working Pricing Tables

b: Certified Parcel Log
“Not Found” will appear as status for every parcel in database. This is normal and no need for concern.

NOTE: When “Create New Parcels” is selected for all PDFs, Map Areas, and Tax Districts, existing data is wiped from Certified first, and then data from Working is copied. Therefore, the parcels no longer exist in certified at the time the working database copies over, so it says the parcel was not found.

Unnecessary to print log; close dialog window.

4. Prior Year Maintenance (from Working, found in Batch menu)

a: Prior Year history is typically added in Working database after certifying parcels.

NOTE: Prior Year may be added before certifying parcels, however Certified parcels with a Prior Year existing for that assessment year could be confusing to taxpayers, as it is not truly a prior year yet for those reported values.

5. Exempt Charts Base Year (if using Exemption module for sliding scale exemptions)

NOTE: This step is only required for table-driven exemptions (e.g. Urban Revitalization) being tracked in Exemption module (base year should not affect 100% exemptions).

a: Tables menu | Exemption Charts
1) Click any of the exemption charts (e.g. Exempt chart 01)
2) Click the Test button (on toolbar) to view Test table
3) Click the Base year button that appears next to the Save button
* Adjust the Base year as needed
* Select individual charts or Select All
* Click OK to close

b: Copy Test to Main and Revaluation required to apply changes

6. Depreciation Base Years (optional)

NOTE: This does not need to be done every year, however you may want to review and determine what works best for your jurisdiction.

a: Tables | General | Depreciation Base Years
1) Click the Test button (on toolbar) to view Test table
2) Click the Base year button that appears next to the Save button
* Select Location and Class
* Select Structure type
* Adjust the Base year as needed
* Click Apply button
* Redo for each Structure type needing change
* Click OK to close

b: Copy Test to Main and Revaluation required to apply changes

7. Reset Reconciliation (if using Reconciliation)

a: Batch | Reconciliation
* Select all PDFs
* Reset Values button
* Starting values set to current VCS value
* Test Only mode available (check box)
* Import starting values from CSV file
* Used for values from tax system (not matching VCS)
* Contact VCS Technical Support if questions on importing

8. Full Update (website clients only)

a: Open VCS Web Transfer Client
* Select database from where values should pull
* Certified is typical in most cases
* Log in to VCS WebClient
* Select Full Update as the Operation Type
* Select PDFs to send
* Click Transfer button

Please contact support for assistance with any questions or concerns on these processes: 1-800-736-8625 or support@camavision.com.

Deep Dive into the Batch Revaluation

By: Nick Klein

The Parcel Revaluation batch process is an indispensable tool of CAMAvision. Anyone that manages pricing tables or performs program updates knows that to apply the pricing changes to parcels, all parcels need to be “reval’d.” Many users simply “click, click, click, confirm, click” through the screens, barely stopping along the way to read them. While there are a few extended settings depending on the state version, for this article I want to focus on settings for all state versions of CAMAvision.

Before You Perform a Revaluation. This screen poses a series of questions to you before starting the batch. Perhaps the most important being: Have you made a backup of your database? I have written articles before about the importance of backups. Even though we’ve made it immensely easy to cancel a reval or undo somea table change, it’s always a good idea to back up your data before performing a batch revaluation.

The Revaluation criteria, or “options” screen allows you to make select changes on how the revaluation executes. First select the pricing tables to be used: Main, Test or Report Only. The usual choice is Main, which means the parcels will be calculated using the Main tables, value changes will be logged, and the parcel will be saved. Test refers to parcels being calculated using the Test version of the tables: value changes will be logged, and parcels will not be saved.

“Report Only” is a holdover from a time when CAMAvision had fewer reports and the query wizard wasn’t as widely used. Basically this option generates a report of all parcels in the selected PDFs, showing the current total parcel value. Parcels are loaded for the sole purpose of reporting and are not calculated or saved. It’s useful in a pinch to get a simple list of parcel values and total value, but more and more people need values reported in ways never imagined a few years ago. Getting just a total is simply not enough so query wizard reports are used.

Parcel Revaluation

The Value Source selection is only applicable in Test mode or “Report Only” and dictates which parcel value is shown on the reports. “Current” (or final) parcel value is the most often choice. When running a Test reval, selecting Appraised might give you a better idea of how much the total value of each parcel could change as opposed to showing parcels that will change. Most jurisdictions have at least a small number of parcels where the current value is in a static override state. For these parcels, a batch revaluation does not technically change the final value and therefore would not be logged.

PDF selection is straightforward enough: you select which PDFs to run the process against. When Main tables are used you usually don’t have much of a choice – all PDFs must be processed. Test mode is more flexible, allowing you to see how a table change affects select classes of parcels or perhaps just a certain side of town. A common question we have following a program update is if it’s possible not to revalue certain PDFs lest historical parcels change value. Unless the parcel values have been rolled into override (or Board), the answer is usually no. Starting with CAMAvision v20 we’ve introduced a new Data Checker feature which going forward should give you a better heads up of parcels affected by a coming program update.

Assign revaluation date to all parcels (not just those that changed). This is actually a legacy setting that has been superseded by stronger reporting in the system log. It is tied to a date field stored with each parcel. If checked all selected parcels will be resaved whether or not its value changes. Uncheck this setting and the batch runs a little faster because it doesn’t need to spend extra seconds saving every parcel; only those that actually have a change will be resaved. Your mileage may vary, but you could see some reduction in processing time.

Load entire parcel during process. Under normal conditions, the revaluation only needs to load those parts of a parcel related to pricing: buildings, land, yard items, etc. Items not affected by a value change such as notes, permits, sketches, are not normally loaded. Selectively loading a parcel speeds up the regular batch process. However, sometimes a full parcel load may be requested, such as following a system update. Loading and saving the entire parcel can ensure that all parts of a parcel are initialized, even those not directly related to value. This is especially useful when non-value related sections get updated. There is no harm in always doing a full parcel load, but it is considerably slower.

Review your options. This screen summarizes all your selections and informs you of what is about to happen if you proceed. Early in the development we added the “I have reviewed the criteria” checkbox because too many people were simply not reading it. We wanted people to be absolutely sure of what they were about to do.

Processing. The processing screen shows you how many parcels have been processed, how many remain and total value change. In the example screenshot, the note in the upper right corner says “Parcels are not saved.” It looks like a link and actually is one. If you press it, it will pause the reval and show you the contents of the summary screen again.

Estimated time remaining. During the execution of the batch process there is one timer that counts down, estimating the amount of time remaining, and another that counts up the elapsed time of the process. I have been asked how the estimated time remaining is calculated. There’s no magic behind it, and is very similar to how file downloads are estimated. It looks at how much time has passed from the beginning of the batch to the current parcel, and estimates how many seconds per parcel it has taken to process. By knowing how many parcels still need to be processed, it extrapolates and estimated time remaining. The time estimate can vary greatly depending on what types of parcels it is calculating at any given point in time. This is because parcels with lots of pieces tend to take longer than parcels that do not. It has to load more out of the database, calculate it, and then turn around and save it back to the database. The calculation cannot take parcel “size” account which is why the time fluctuates. Other unknowns that can influence the estimate is network traffic and server load.

Parcel Revaluation

Revaluation log. This screen presents a grid showing all parcels that either changed, or could change (when Test mode is used). The grid shows a parcel’s old value, the new value and how much it changed in each of the main areas of land, dwelling and improvements. The log has buttons for four of the most popular report groupings: 1) by parcel, 2) changes by map, 3) changes by PDF, and 4) changes by class.

As mentioned, if you performed a Test reval, the grid is showing what the parcel could look like. This can be handy to compare against the parcel with the Quick Summary. If you right-click a parcel in the grid you will get a menu that allows you to invoke the Quick Summary. The Quick Summary loads the parcel from the database so it is showing you the parcel values as they are actually stored. Use the Quick Summary in conjunction with the log to compare how a parcel could change.

Parcel Revaluation

Now, have you ever been a little too quick to press the close button after finishing the reval and then instantly wished you would’ve paid closer attention to the logs? Our tech support has fielded many such calls to recover the logs. Previous versions of CAMAvision would store this information only in the system log.

This may be fine for individual parcels, but none of the other logs such as value changes by class or PDF would be stored. With v20, all revaluation logs are automatically saved into a zip file located in the CAMAvision Shared folder. Only the most recent revaluation logs are kept; hopefully long enough for you copy them someplace else if you really want to hold on to them.

Parcel Revaluation

Conclusion. I hope you enjoyed this dive into Batch Revaluation and the explanations of its screens. I also hope that my explanation and history of some of the features helps you better understand the careful thinking we try to put into this and all parts of the program.

New Employees (Spring 2016 Newsletter)

Mica LaBarge was hired November 30th, 2015

Vanguard AppraisalsPlease help us welcome new employee Mica LaBarge to the VAI family. Mica is a System Administrator. She will work very closely with Matt Shaffer taking care of all our IT needs. Mica, originally from Anamosa, has lived in Chicago, Seattle and San Diego. She returned to once again call Anamosa home about 10 years ago. She has 4 furry kids – two Pomeranians and 2 Weiner dog mixes, all are rescues. She enjoys volunteering in her community and working part time at REM. She says her passions are animals of all kinds, history and home design. A rather strange mix, don’t you think!

Steven Ford was hired January 8th, 2016

Vanguard AppraisalsPlease help us welcome new employee Steven Ford to the VAI family. Steven is a Appraisal Associate. Steven was born and raised in Davenport, IA. He graduated from Davenport Central High School in 2007 and the University of Iowa in 2011 with a B.A. in Sociology. Steven has no children, but he does have a 3 year old Siberian Husky named Katie. Much of his free time is devoted to taking care of her. Steven and Katie enjoy going for walks around the local park and going to the dog park. Steven is a fan of classic PC and Super Nintendo video games. He still plays Diablo 2 almost every day and has recently started playing Minecraft. He enjoys streaming and watching friends from across the country on Twitch TV and Discord. Steven says he will always be a fan of Hawkeye football and basketball. He also enjoys the Olympics and tries to watch as many events as possible during both the summer and winter games.

Toni Hible was hired February 1st, 2016

Vanguard AppraisalsPlease help us welcome Toni Hible to our VAI family. Toni is a CAMA Specialist for lower half of Minnesota and some of South Dakota. Toni started her Assessment career almost 16 years ago with the Assessor’s Office in Codington County (Watertown) SD as a field appraiser. She then moved to Deuel County (Clear Lake) SD as the Director of Equalization and then north to Stutsman County (Jamestown) ND as Director of Equalization and finally migrated south to Freeborn County (Albert Lea) MN. Toni is raising her two sons (Devin and Mason) and two daughters (Jessica and Jenny) and now has two new granddaughters (Ryder and Alyssa). In her free time she enjoys riding horses and annual trail rides with her equine family members, both two and four legged friends. She also loves family camping trips, holiday baking sprees, reading and has recently started running again.

Eric Kolsrud was hired March 14th, 2016.

Eric KolsrudPlease help us welcome new employee Eric Kolsrud to the VAI family. Eric works in the home office as an office support staff person, he works on data input, sketching and pricing. Eric was born and raised in Shellsburg Iowa, a fourth generation. He moved to Atlanta where he lived for twenty years and recently moved back to Shellsburg to be closer to his family. He held a manager position with GC Services, data entry positions with Alliant Energy and Trans American and worked at C & S Bank balancing corporate accounts. In his free time Eric enjoys trail riding, raising short horn cattle and raising/hunting Standard poodles.

Kayleen Kauffman was hired March 28th, 2016

Kayleen KauffmanPlease help us welcome new employee Kayleen Kaufman to the VAI family. Kayleen works in the home office as an office support staff person, she works on data input, sketching and pricing. Kayleen was born and raised in Iowa and graduated from Linn-Mar High School in 2012. While at Linn-Mar she played the violin in the orchestra. After graduation she went to California for a semester at a Bible College and then the following autumn went to school to start a two year degree. Kayleen is the youngest of five children and a self pro claimed huge nerd. Something weird about her is that she really doesn’t like coffee, bacon or chocolate (the three main food groups). She is a youth leader and on the worship team at her church. She loves to crochet and sew on her down time and loves to travel, especially when it includes trying different kinds of food, YUM.