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Non Profit Status

The Community Software Consortium is officially a non-profit.  We’ve received our IRS letter as well as tax exempt certification from the State of Massachusetts!

Remote IT program now open to more communities

Funded by the Commonwealth’s Community Innovation Challenge grant program, the CSC is offering remote cloud-based backup of all your town’s critical data. Having successfully setup our first 10 communities, we are now able to open the program up to additional communities until we have reached our funding cap.

Communities need to sign up by Oct 31, 2014 to participate in the funded portion of the project.  Grant funds will cover the cost of the initial setup, and then ongoing backups of your computer data for 1 year.

 

The RPIS Condo Enhancements are now available.

A new version of the CSC’s Real Property Information System (RPIS) will be available to all members starting June 9thIn addition to the new Condo features, a number of smaller issues were addressed.  Contact your DLS IT advisor to get the new version of RPIS.  (CSC Cloud users will receive the update automatically – coming soon. Watch your email for a rollout date.)

We are hoping to have a user meeting, to review the new features, at the MAAO conference on Thursday morning June 25th, if we can find a room.  More info shortly.

In addition to the new Condo features, a number of smaller issues were addressed.

These include:

RPIS 3.1a

Data Management and Valuation Enhancements:

  • Modified condo data storage, reporting, and valuation as recommended by the CSC Condo Committee.
  • Added Base Value and Base Rate fields to the Land table, and modifed Cost to populate them.
  • The system now supports range edits on dates.  The Low and High Values entered on the (useful for sale dates, bld permit, inspections etc.) Table/Column List screen will be applied to the year portion of the date.  If the High Value is left blank or set to zero, then the current calendar year will be used as the upper value.  This has been implemented in DMT, Transaction Processor, and Re-Edit.
  • Added a parcel-based page number to the Parcel Listing report. (Good for lengthy parcels like camps or big commercial properties.)
  • Column labels are now shown on the “column pick” screen for Parcel List and Audit List.
  • Removed unused fields from the Table / Column List screen.
  • Inactive columns are now excluded from column lists in Query Builder, Update Builder, etc.
  • On the Query Builder screen, added processing for Key Level 2 tables.
  • An Edit button has been added to the Query Builder screen to allow users to edit queries.
  • Added a subquery wizard to Update Builder.
  • In Image Maintenance:
    • Added a “confirmation” dialog box to the Replace button, to address the problem of inadvertently clicking Replace instead of Add.
    • When deleting a photo, deletion of the photo file is now allowed only if it is not referenced by any other parcel in the PICTURES table.
    • When adding new photos, the program now makes sure the new file is not already referenced by another parcel in the PICTURES table.
    •  Added a Note button.
    •  Added Land (LND) to list of allowable photo types.
    •  Added support for various photo sizes (users can change the default size in Local Settings).  A photo larger than the default size will be downsized; otherwise the size is not adjusted.  In all cases, the original width-to-height ratio of the photo is maintained.  This also works for photos taken in portrait mode.

Bug fixes:

  • Fixed problem in Sketch where using the backspace key in the Label text box crashes Sketch and deletes the vector.
  • Fixed problem with entering apostrophe in Name or Address on Search screen.

Read the CSC Connections from DLS

Each Quarter, the DLS provides helpful information and updates.

Click here to read the latest issue, or catch up on prior news.

 

 

 

New Cost Tables Now Available

The 2014 RPIS Cost Tables are now available for download. Values were derived from Marshall & Swift as of January 1, 2014 and should be used for FY 2015 triennial certification programs.

 

Get them here:  Member Cost Tables

Town of Washington and CSC receive $128,000 CIC Innovation Grant for Connecting the Dots: Public Access, Cloud Accounting, and Security

PATRICK ADMINISTRATION ANNOUNCES $4 MILLION IN COMMUNITY INNOVATION CHALLENGE GRANTS FOR MUNICIPALITIES, REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICTS AND PLANNING AGENCIES ACROSS MASSACHUSETTS

 

BOSTON – Thursday, February 6, 2014 –Secretary of Administration and Finance Glen Shor today announced the 37 projects slated to receive funding from the $4 million Community Innovation Challenge (CIC) grant program.  Now in its third year, the Patrick Administration originally authorized the establishment of the CIC program in the Fiscal Year 2012 budget.  The program incentivizes and supports regionalization and other cost saving initiatives that will change the way local governments do business to maintain service delivery and stretch every tax payer dollar as far as possible.

The Town of Washington acting as the lead community on behalf of the Community Software Consortium, is receiving $128,000 for  “Connecting the Dots: Public Access, Cloud Accounting, and Security”

This is the 2nd CIC grant the consortium has received.  In FY2012, it received $287,000 to move its systems to a cloud environment.   This brings the total received to over $400,000!

This new grant will allow the CSC to create a new tier for Remote IT support, build a generic loader system for communities to load their assessing and valuation information into a public access system on the web free for all CSC members, and begin work on its integrated Accounting and Treasury System.

The full press release can be read here:  FY14 Community Innovation Challenge Grants Final Release

 

CSC Application Suite Upgrades Currently in Progress

Assessors

CSC Real Property Information System (RPIS) as well as the Tax Administration (Collection) applications are currently undergoing software design enhancements.   The enhancements to both applications were requested and funded by members of each tier.  The Assessing membership tier approved of a complete re-design of the RPIS Condo Unit record. The enhancements will allow end users to effectively value condo properties through the application’s condo valuation menu function.  Design enhancements were created by a committee of CSC members.   Membership was provided an opportunity to review and comment on the draft proposal. The proposal was finalized and is currently in production with a target completion date of January  21, 2014.

Condo Unit Specifications
Condo Property Record Card
Condo Record Design

Collectors:

The Collector’s tier has developed a long term multiple faceted enhancement plan consisting of four enhancement projects.  Each project incorporates a varied number of enhancements to the existing application.  Enhancements run the gamut from current screen revisions and revised system options to increasing security access.  Other enhancements incorporate into the system advanced capabilities such as acceptance of batch payment and utility billing.

Tax Administration Application Plan

CSC Personal Property Application ~ Table Updates and Upgrades

The Personal Property Application, part of the group’s application suite, has been upgraded for FY 2014.  Modifications to the application include FY 2014 base table updates of Marshall and Swift costs.  Included in table updates for FY 2014 are three new categories of items:  Sports/ Recreation Centers, Service Repair, and Closed Circuit Security.  Additionally, Farm Animal Excise values (FVAC) have been updated to reflect FY 2014 costs, though rates are the same as in FY 2013.  Upgrades to the application include minor bug fixes and the addition of new reports suggested by end-users.  These reports include: LA-4 Cross Check all Accounts, District LA-4 Cross Check, Account Listing by Local Account ID, Account Detail for Businesses, and Property Record Cards listing business accounts only excluding summer home accounts. Please contact CSC IT Support staff to obtain the latest copy of the application.

Results of Schedule A Enhancements

This is a repost of an article from the January 2, 2014 City & Town.

Results of Schedule A Enhancements
David L. Davies – Information Technology Director

About a year ago, a survey on Schedule A submissions on DLS Gateway generated strong opinions on two issues:

1.) Re-formatting Part 3 to make it easier to enter online, i.e. make it like the Excel-based Auto Schedule A. Fifty percent of respondents said entering Part 3 online was either relatively or very difficult.

2.) For communities that find it valuable to organize their data in the Excel-based Auto Schedule A, allow upload from that Excel file without having to re-enter data online. Sixty-four percent of respondents reported using some or the entire Excel program in preparing Schedule A submissions.

The DLS Response:

1.) Reprogram the online forms for Parts 2 through 6 to duplicate the format of the Excel-based program;

2.) Partner with the Community Software Consortium (CSC) to provide a no-cost bridge program available to any community to securely copy the data from the Excel-based Auto Schedule A to DLS Gateway.

This article is about the latter response. I alerted accountant/auditors to the coming bridge program in a June email. DLS speakers have mentioned it at conferences and DLS included details about it in the Excel program instructions. Testing and refinement continued in the early fall. Without further advertising, some fifty cities and towns to date (12/20/2013) have downloaded the program from the CSC website (http://csc-cloud.us/cloud/schedule-a/).

Forty-one communities subsequently submitted their Schedule A’s. Comparing the bridge program download dates from the CSC and the Schedule A submission dates on DLS Gateway, the data suggest the bridge program has greatly sped up and simplified submission. The median elapsed time between download and submission is two days. Over one-third of communities downloaded the bridge and submitted their Excel-based data the same day. Previously, many communities would use Excel to organize their data and then would have to reenter it online. Communities of all sizes and locations used the bridge program from small western towns to large eastern cities.

DLS was able to directly and immediately address its stakeholders’ concerns because of the flexibility and mission of the Community Software Consortium. The CSC is made up of and governed by Massachusetts municipalities who pay dues to underwrite technology solutions for members. In this instance, the CSC felt an investment that would quickly benefit all cities and towns, regardless of membership status, would help raise the organization’s profile among local officials and demonstrate the kind of creative low-cost solutions it can provide.

We have had some feedback on the bridge program. One local official took the time to write, “I just uploaded my Schedule A spreadsheet into the Gateway using your new Upload Option and I just wanted to say LOVE IT! Thank you for doing that. You just saved me hours of tedious work!”

If your experience is worth a comment, please let us know by emailing daviesd@dor.state.ma.us. This innovation happened because we asked and you responded.

FY 2016 Dues Set

At the annual meeting in September, the FY 2016 dues were set.  More information here.