The City of Mississauga has rolled out a customized IT system for collecting property tax information as a model to be replicated in municipalities across the province.
The software, called TXM2000, has also been deployed by
local governments in Richmond Hill, Markham and Brampton, and is managing more than $2 billion in tax revenue. The system consists of an Oracle database running in a client/server environment on an HP blade server that contains data on all Mississauga properties and their current assessment. It offers the ability to calculate the levy and bill taxes for each property, tax and assessment appeals, residential apportionments, vacancy rebate calculations and an interface to the General Ledger. An account inquiry feature allows customer queries about their municipal taxes online. Mississauga rolled out the self-service capabilities as part of its e-City initiative two years ago.
Mississauga project manager Ed de Grosbois said TXM2000 grew out of a failed attempt by several cities in the Greater Toronto Area to find a vendor that could meet the requirements of a request for proposal issued in the mid-1990s. The main problem, he said, was finding a system flexible enough to handle the ongoing changes to tax legislation that affect municipal users.
Some of the first major changes, for example, began in 1998 with Bill 79, the Fairness to Property Taxpayers Act, but more recent decisions such as Ontario’s 2004 budget bill (Bill 83) will continue to affect the way property tax is calculated and billed. “They’ve changed the legislation almost every year,” he said.
TMX2000 lets business users at Mississauga respond to telephone queries about a tax bill by pulling up the history of that account and making real-time changes. Every night, all the transactions of the day, such as payments and changes as a result of appeals are processed in a batch environment. The legacy system for property tax collection was far different, de Grosbois said.
“At the most optimistic it would have been a next day response,” he said. “You’d also have to go through volumes of paper records to access your accounts.”
Neil Stevens, director of consulting services at DesTech Consulting, said his firm was called in to help design the architecture for TXM2000, and DesTech continues to employ two people onsite in Mississauga to help manage the system.
“It doesn’t matter what sort of application, users are going to need some changes,” he said. “The key is to handle it all in the design phase, to try to build in enough flexibility in the design that it can be altered pretty easily. We all know how the governments like to change their minds.”
Mississauga is willing to share the development and support costs with cities that want to deploy TXM2000, and though there might be few takers, de Grosbois said bigger municipalities may be hard-pressed to find a similar solution.
“In Ontario, there’s something like 400 municipalities. There’s probably only 20 large enough to be interested in acquiring a tax levy and billing system at this scale,” he said. “It’s quite a limited market, and a lot of the private vendors that are making software tend to look at the lower end of the market.”
Mississauga said it also used Oracle Forms Developer and Oracle Designer to build the TXM2000. The system is currently handling some 180,000 property tax accounts.