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GCN : January 2014
CASE STUDY SOFTWARE AS A SERVICE 30 GCN JANUARY 2014 • GCN.COM They say the only two things that are certain in life are death and taxes. But for local governments, espe- cially those going through tough economic times, taxes may not be all that certain. If enough resi- dents don't pay their taxes or their municipal bills, it can strangle a small government. Municipalities do have some tried and true ways to recoup those fees, including the auc- tion of tax liens, where inves- tors can purchase county-held tax certificates representing unpaid taxes and fees. Moving the process online can greatly reduce administra- tive costs, increases the pool of bidders and can help local gov- ernments more quickly recoup taxes and fees. In many cases, once an auc- tion is announced, a delinquent home owner simply comes in and pays the outstanding bill, which is the best situation all around. But if the property has to go to auction, most municipalities rely more on elbow grease than technology to get the job done. That's what the New Jersey borough of Red Bank used to have to do. "I would get up there during in-person auctions and act as the auctioneer," said Red Bank tax and utility collector Constance Ludden. Even before that, all the customer service and signups were handed by the office staff." To combat the overhead in- volved in the in-person auctions, Red Bank contracted with Real- auction.com to move the entire process online. Realauction.com is a seven- year-old company that is current- ly working in Florida, New Jersey, Maryland, Colorado and Arizona and the cities of Detroit and Chi- cago. In New Jersey, Red Bank was the first municipality to come onboard, but now many others are joining up. AUCTIONS-AS-A-SERVICE Daphne Crum, project manager for Realauction.com, said that any sized agency can use the com- pany's services. No infrastructure and no technical expertise is need- ed. The company creates a cus- tomized website through which the county hosts auctions. It also manages all auction processes, including data transfer from the county's software system to its cus- tom website and customer service. "We really do everything--from setting up the website to running the bidding process," Crum said. Realauction.com has de- veloped software to meet the needs of specific counties. One program automates the creation of a notice of sale for foreclosed properties. Another calculates the amount due on each tax lien, tracks payments electronically and notifies the municipality when funds have settled. The system processes receipts, notifications and title orders on hundreds of tax liens simultaneously, the company said, accomplishing these tasks in a matter of hours rather than days. Crum said that security is not a big problem because the docu- ments are public records. How- ever, bidders' information, like Social Security numbers, pass through a one-way gateway to the website during sign up and are Red Bank, N.J., hires Web-based auction service to recover unpaid tax revenues and cut down administration costs To recoup back taxes, Red Bank goes online BY JOHN BREEDEN II Data for the Realauction.com auctions is housed at Terremark's Tier 1 data center in Miami.