DONA ANA COUNTY HARNESSES TECHNOLOGY TO BENEFIT TAXPAYERS

DONA ANA COUNTY HARNESSES TECHNOLOGY TO BENEFIT TAXPAYERS

It used to be that the owner of a plot of land in Dona Ana County might have to spend countless frustrating hours poring over a phalanx of different maps to discern a given parcel of land’s zoning status, assessment valuation, utility access, flood likelihood, etc.
But soon, anyone with a computer and an Internet connection will be able to view any or all such information with a few strokes on a keyboard, thanks to the advanced state of the county’s Geographical Information System (GIS).
For the last nine years, the staff members of the Dona Ana County Community Development Office and Assessor’s Office have been transposing old and new topographic, road, irrigation district and utility maps with aerial photos, zoning boundaries, voting districts, land-parcel boundaries and assessment information onto a large computer database.
In conjunction with the City of Las Cruces, Dona Ana County is preparing to upgrade the internal system so that it can be easily and freely accessed by the public through the power of the Internet.
Shane Nicoll of the Dona Ana County Assessor’s Office said the system should be online within six months, at which time interested users can log onto their Internet providers to research nearly every aspect of a given parcel of property in Dona Ana County.
Already, Nicoll said, a great deal of information related to deeds and property tax information is available on the Internet, and is being regularly accessed by Realtors, who use the information to research property transactions. Soon, he said, Internet users also will be able to identify their voting precincts, polling places and county and municipal representation boundaries from the database.
Peter Cooper, director of Dona Ana County’s Information Services Department, said Dona Ana County is the only county in the State of New Mexico where such information is available via the Internet, with still more to come.
Besides making access to records easier for taxpayers and interested residents, Nicoll said the vast database and search capabilities of the GIS make it possible for county employees to maximize efficiency in their individual tasks, ranging from planning and redistricting to assessment and, eventually, emergency response. Tasks so apparently mundane as flood planning and rural address mapping, he said, are made exponentially more efficient by the GIS.
Already, he said, the county has been able through the system to identify and pursue tax cheats who have placed improvements – buildings, mobile homes, etc. – on land that had been previously taxed as unimproved. The overlay of assessment maps with aerial photos, he said, provides a precisely dated system by which each lot in the county can be monitored regularly. The benefit to the county in terms of increased tax revenue, Nicoll said, is potentially large.