After 30 years of working in the real estate business, Clay County Assessor Aron Royer is seeing Clay County from a different perspective.
About six weeks into his term, Royer has changed locations from the north side of National Avenue, where his realty business was once situated, to the south side of National Avenue, where he works in the Clay County Courthouse. He has been working with Deputy Assessor Ed Nevins and part-time employee Andrea Sanders, also a student at Indiana State University, to organize the Assessor's Office and ensure county operations are running smoothly.
Retired for the past 10 years, Royer said he has always been interested in the goings-on of the Assessor's Office. As a realtor, he would go to the courthouse himself to handle taxes and assessment and frequently interacted with workers in the Auditor's Office and Recorder's Office. He was also a "regular" in the Assessor's Office.
"So it's always been interesting to me," he said.
Throughout his career, Royer explained he has mostly worked alone or for himself. In his previous experience, he always had time to personally examine the details of situations before making decisions on his own. But his traditional work method has changed considerably in his new position.
"I'd never had the experience of working with a group of people together," he said. "I was always doing my own thing."
Royer has learned that one advantage of working with others is being offered help without having to ask.Clay County Auditor Joe Dierdorf put Royer in touch with the Monroe County assessor, who Royer said has been generous and helpful since he began.
"She runs one of the top offices in Indiana," he said.
She volunteered to let Royer and his employees visit her staff in Bloomington to observe and learn how that office conducted its daily business. Several other counties have also taken the initiative to contact Royer to inquire if he had need of their assistance in getting started.
"Those kind of people don't come along too often. I've had probably seven calls from around the state," he said. "I'm really looking forward to being able to really get things done."
Since taking over in the position left vacant by the resignation of C.R. Boyd, Royer said he has worked with Nevins in setting goals for each week, organizing the Assessor's Office to fit their work styles, had computer technicians in the office regarding the assessment programs, traveled to Bloomington to observe the activities of the Monroe County Assessor's Office, attended a state training program for assessors, dealt with computer problems that have since been resolved and worked with a state field representative who visited the local office.
"I hope (now) we can
really go to work on what we've been assigned to be doing. I'm looking forward to it," he said. "I didn't quite want this much, but I'm looking forward to it."
Royer said that while he's been getting into books and learning forms, he and his team have also been fielding calls from throughout the United States from persons inquiring about real estate in Clay County. He explained that Indiana has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation, but with all those foreclosures, the funds may actually be in cities like Denver and New York City. On Mondays, Royer estimated, answering those questions takes up about two-thirds of the day. Most of those asking questions will have few details. But to address that problem, he hopes to make a computer terminal accessible to members of the public.
"That's going to free us up to do the more important things," he said. "It was something I didn't realize was that much of that office. Anybody doing any appraising always comes to that office."
Royer said he is using the Monroe County office as a model to work from, and considering its operation nearly perfect, he is striving to improve the Clay County office.
"The Assessor's Office is the first cog in the wheel for finances," he said. "I intend for that to be a workable office. It makes everybody's job easier."
Meanwhile, a new system of assessment will be based on market value, rather than an older system that implemented a confusing set of codes with assessments done by township trustees. A number of counties in Indiana have not finished making that transition, Royer said. In Clay County, township trustees do not conduct assessments for propertyowners' houses, but do assess personal property like boats, motorcycles, snowmobiles and motor homes. County funding comes from property tax collection.
"We are now in the infancy of a process called trending," said Royer, explaining that a more gradual shift in value will prevent dramatic leaps in pricing. "This trending will eliminate that. It won't be a 10-year shock."
In addition to assessment, the Assessor's Office also handles inheritance taxes and the county dog tax, which is $2 per dog. If a person's home has not been assessed after being built, it is the owner's responsibility to notify the Assessor's Office to ensure a proper assessment is conducted. Otherwise, that person is subject not only to back taxes, but a fine as well.
"It's your obligation too," he said. "If you're not paying your taxes, that's less in the pot."