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The BIS CAPCOG/Llano County NG9-1-1 Project

Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) is a forward step in the evolution of the 9-1-1 system developed over 40 years ago.  It migrates 9-1-1 from analog technology intended for wireline phones, to an all IP-based architecture capable of communicating with any network connected device.  Of importance to local governments and GIS professionals that maintain GIS data for 9-1-1 is the transition from using Master Street Address Guide (MSAG) and Automatic Location Identification (ALI) tabular databases to GIS databases for 9-1-1 call location and routing.  In NG9-1-1, GIS data is used in real-time within the 9-1-1 call flow for all location validation, call routing and mapping.  As a result, it is essential that GIS data be complete, accurate, and up-to date before being used within a NG9-1-1 system.

The ten County Capitol Area Planning Council of Government (CAPCOG) Emergency Service District including Llano County is moving closer to deploying a Next-Gen 9-1-1 system that enable emergency calls to route to the correct Public Service Answering Point (PSAP) based on GIS data.   This transition begins the process of moving away from the traditional MSAG-based (tabular database) routing system to one that will be faster, more reliable, and enable multimedia such as pictures and videos to be sent to 9-1-1 call takers via cell phones and tablets.

BIS was contacted by the Llano County 9-1-1 Coordinator D’Anna Swindle and Llano County Judge Ron Cunningham to assist with the mapping. The current Llano county legacy GIS layer including PSAP and Emergency Service Boundaries layers had topology errors that needed to be corrected at the beginning of the project.  Road centerlines and address points were next in line to be corrected.  These are all considered critical layers that must be accurate for the success of the NG9-1-1 mapping.

CAPCOG this past year contracted GEOCOMM, a company that has built GIS data management tools that allows GIS staff to collaborate, edit, quality check, merge, and analyze 9-1-1 mapping data.  BIS and Llano County staff members make corrections to the GIS data and uploads the data into that system.  BIS receives monthly progress reports from the CAPCOG team as progress is made on the errors in the Llano County 9-1-1 GIS data.

BIS is in a great position to serve rural Counties in Texas.  We provide GIS Services to Texas County Appraisal districts across the State including Llano County. The parcel layer that we maintain for these appraisal districts is used in NG9-1-1 mapping to locate the address points to verify ownership of a home or structure.  BIS takes pride in its efforts to support these local governments.

Rural counties across the State have challenges in meeting the GIS data requirements for NG9-1-1.   Some GIS Coordinators in these counties have multiple job requirements and may not have time to focus on improving the data.  BIS has set goals aiding these Counties in preparing their data or contracting out the maintenance to support their local 9-1-1mapping.  We have gained some valuable experience supporting Llano County 9-1-1 mapping project.

The next steps to move forward to a fully operational Next-Generation 911 system will have its challenges.  Upgrading to an IP-capable infrastructure will be costly.  Emergency call center authorities and telecommunication carriers both need to upgrade their systems to get to next-generation 9-1-1.  Several of the large Council of Governments (COG) including North Central Texas Council of Governments have NG-ready infrastructure in place.  AT&T and Verizon both are making progress on upgrading their networks to support the NG9-1-1

Preparing your GIS data is one of the first steps to meet the infrastructure requirements needed for NG9-1-1.  Counties like Llano will be prepared for this transition and will be rewarded for making this effort.  Having a NG9-1-1 system in place will save lives.

Welcome Garza CAD!

We are excited to welcome our latest client to the BIS family!

Garza CAD went live today with our entire suite of sites services. They now have a beautiful BIS hosted website as well as Property Search, Online Protest, Online Forms, and the Interactive Map. Not only will the staff of the appraisal district appreciate these tools, but the taxpayers of Garza county will too.  They can now access public information easier than ever. Our responsive sites will work on any device the taxpayers use whether it be a mobile phone, tablet, or a laptop.

Check out their new site here.

If you are interested in providing these top-notch services to your taxpayers, reach out to us today! Just send an email to webmaster@bisconsultants.com and let us know you are interested.

 

County Websites in Texas 

 

For county offices, a good website is the best way to keep your property owners and taxpayers informed. BIS proudly hosts 120 websites for Appraisal Districts, Tax Offices, and Taxing Units across the State and can quickly get you and your team set up with a easy-to-use website that is customizable to meet your specific needs.

Let our sites team design and build a website that is compliant, organized, and user-friendly. We can train and equip you and your team to update your website or we can handle website updates for you. BIS-hosted websites provide relevant information in a clean and organized manner enabling the public to easily discover the information they need without calling your office or visiting your customer service desk.

According to Texas Tax Code 26.18, each taxing unit website must contain:

  • The name of each member of the commissioner’s court.
  • The mailing address, email address and telephone number of the county.
  • The official contact information for each member of the commissioner’s court.
  • The county’s budget for the previous two years.
  • The county’s proposed or adopted budget for the current year.
  • The change in the amount of the county’s budget from the preceding year to the current year, by dollar amount and percentage.
  • The amount of property tax revenue budgeted for maintenance and operations for the current year and previous two years.
  • The amount of property tax revenue budgeted for debt services for the current year and previous two years.
  • The tax rate for maintenance and operations adopted by the county for the previous two years.
  • The tax rate for debt service adopted by the county for the previous two years.
  • The tax rate for maintenance and operations proposed by the taxing unit for the current year.
  • The tax rate for debt service proposed by the taxing unit for the current year.
  • The most recent financial audit of the county.

We know how busy you are and keeping up with all the new requirements is stressful. Our sites team remove that burden so you can be confident your website meets all necessary state regulations while also being secure and easy-to-use for both your staff and your taxpayers.

Send us an email at webmaster@bisconsultants.com for more information on getting a BIS-hosted website for your office!

Truth-in-Taxation Makes Complicated Tax Rates Transparent and Easy to Understand 

Last year, Senate Bill 2 introduced a requirement mandating that appraisal districts across Texas must create and maintain a property tax website that helps property owners understand tax rates, see who is responsible for setting those rates, and learn how to be involved in the public meetings where tax rate changes are discussed.  Specifically, SB2 requires a Truth-in-Taxation website:

  • provide information that is provided by the taxing units of the appraisal district.
  • be continuously updated by Taxing Units as preliminary and revised data becomes available.
  • be accessible to the public.
  • be searchable by the property address and the owner.

Once SB2 became law, the BIS development team got to work creating a site that not only met the requirements but that was also clean, organized, and user-friendly. To be useful to taxpayers, the site had to be easy to navigate and provide a thorough break down of the different tax rates that contribute to a property owner’s tax bill.

In addition to an easy-to-navigate layout, charts and graphs were added to give taxpayers a visual comparison of prior year rates and how proposed changes would affect them.

Since SB2 also stated that a designated officer of the Taxing Unit is responsible for updates, our team made updating and maintenance a priority to ensure entering information is straightforward and effortless as possible. Data can be imported into the BIS Truth-in-Taxation website manually or en masse, making onboarding and data management as easy as possible. The BIS Truth-in-Taxation website also supports an approvals workflow to make sure any tax rate changes are reviewed and approved prior to publication.

The BIS Truth-in-Taxation website is now being used by counties across Texas who chose BIS because of the site’s best-in-class user experience, usability, extensive data management features, and excellent BIS support. Reach out to webmaster@bisconsultants.com today and let us build a Truth-in-Taxation website for you!

 

 

 

Small Budgets, Big IT Needs

Towards the last few months of the year we hear from many clients who need guidance on how to best use their remaining technology budget. With a limited amount of money and the desire to spend it wisely, we’re often asked our opinion to help them. Most commonly we’re asked, “which item I should buy first?” Closely followed by “how should I prioritize my IT needs in the office?”   As you’re working through your end of year purchasing list, we wanted to offer some guidance.

Start with security.

If you have any computers in your office that are still running Windows 7, the upgrade of these machines should be your priority. You have backburner-ed this, but if your staff is still using outdated windows systems, your office remains vulnerable to an attack.

Next, determine the biggest technology challenges you are facing.  

Do you have enough laptops to allow your essential staff to work from home at a moment’s notice?

    • One thing 2020 has taught us, is that our new normal for work is anything but normal. We have had to learn to adapt, with that, we need to have a way to continue working from any location. BIS always has access to the lowest prices so let us know if we can help you equip your team.

Do you have software that allows your team to work together even when everyone is working from separate locations?

    • At BIS we are not only Office 365 resellers, we are also subscribers. Our team easily collaborates on office documents, and we stay connected via Microsoft Teams. If you are looking for a productivity suite for your entire office, let us know, and we will share more information on Microsoft subscriptions and how they helped transform the way our office works.

Is your phone system reliable?

    • We know how important it is for your taxpayers to be able to reach you and how imperative it is that you have a phone system that is stable.  A modern phone(VOIP) system will allow you to make and take calls through a web browser, an application on your cell phone, and even notify you via email for any voicemails. We use this system at BIS and so do many of our clients. If your phone system leaves a lot to be desired, let us know and we will gladly get you more information.

After helping our clients with hardware and software purchases for over 12 years, we are confident we can guide you with the purchases that will be the best fit.  We pride ourselves on being honest, and we will never just sell something that is not right for you, just to get a sale. We adhere to our mission to:

“Simplify our client’s IT needs, through old school customer service, with the ambition of revolutionizing technology in every area of government.”

We want to help you make the best decision within the boundaries of your budgets. Reach out today, and let us help you equip your office and your team.

 

Storm Response Ready

BIS may be known as an IT consulting company, but first and foremost we are in the business of caring.

The most important characteristic of our team members is not the skills they provide, it is their heart. One recent example of this is the way our team jumped into action as Hurricane Laura was approaching.

Our GIS department worked to create a map based on the storm’s projected path. Using that information, we were able to easily identify who might be in harm’s way. The customer care department then reached out to those people, whether they are our client or not, to make sure that they were prepared, and they knew the best way to protect their hardware and data in severe weather.

The IT team immediately began verifying that all our backup clients knew that we had their data safe and secure in case there would be a need to have to restore data after the storm came through.

After the storm, our customer care team checked in to make sure our clients are safe and sound. Thankfully, for this storm, we had only one client that needed to close the office for an extended period due to power outages and wind damage.

At the very heart of BIS is a team that cares about our clients and it shows in moments like these.

Cyber Security Training Deadline June 14th

HB3834 requiring yearly cyber security training for state and local government offices went into effect immediately when it was signed on June 14, 2019. That means that your cyber security training for this year is due by June 14, 2020.

As the deadline quickly approaches, many people still have questions about who needs training and how to report that your office has completed the course. With the help of information from the Department of Information Resources (DIR) we have put together the following FAQ to help you out.

Who is required to take cyber security training?

State Agencies
-Any employee who uses a computer for at least 25% of their required duties
-ALL elected or appointed officers of the agency must be trained REGARDLESS of how much they use a computer
State Agency Contractors
-Any contractor that has access to a state computer system or a database
Local Governments
-ALL employees who have access to a local government computer
-ALL elected officials NOTE: If the elected board members are PAID, they are considered to be employees, so they need the training. If the elected board members are UNPAID, they are not required to take the training but it is highly recommended

FY19-20 what is the deadline for completing cyber security training?

State Agencies
-June 1, 2020
State Agency Contractors
-During the term of the contract and during any renewal period
Local Governments
-June 14, 2020

How should cyber security training be reported?

State Agencies
-Submit the Executive Acknowledgement of Risk Form in SPECTRIM with the agency security plan
State Agency Contractors
-Send copy of certificate with your bid or directly to client
Local Governments
-Use the self-reporting tool on the DIR website found HERE.  NOTE: Only ONE representative from the local government office will fill this out for the entire office. You DO NOT need to fill in a form for each employee.

What is the deadline for reporting cyber security training compliance?

State Agencies
-June 1, 2020 – biennially
Local Governments
-June 15, 2020 – annually

Is there an extension to the deadline for training or reporting compliance?

No extension are being given for 2020

If you need training for this year, you still have time! Our training is online, on-demand, and only takes one hour to complete. To sign up, please fill in the form HERE.

If you have any questions, please contact Sandy Steele at ssteele@bisconsultants.com

 

BIS GIS Services

Whether you need a ground up GIS solution or a custom-tailored GIS application, you can rely on BIS’ team of professionals to get the job done.

BIS is a full-service GIS provider specializing in data conversion/management, scripting, online mapping applications, map generation, spatial analysis, statistical analysis, training/support, and other GIS processes. With years of experience, we have structured ourselves to become your source for all your GIS needs to further enable your success. Whether a large publicly traded oil and gas company, a rural local government office, or small business, we have seen and done it all. We have a variety of solutions to fit your business needs and objectives. Regardless of your industry, we can help you realize the value of geospatial data, analysis, visualization and mapping.

Recently we have focused new services on the emerging field of using GIS and statistical analysis to further refine mass appraisal processes. Using new Business Intelligence tools and scripting, we can take your maps and data to further refine the information, thus giving you better insight into the appraisal process. This information is then shared through a web page or some other application that allows you to visualize the data in charts, graphs, maps, and tables. You can then base business decisions from this information in a much more informed manner than just looking at raw data.

For more information contact our GIS department HERE.

Imagery Solutions

Traditionally, collecting overhead imagery for large swaths of land was time consuming and extremely costly. We want you to know that those days are over. BIS has partnered with aerial mapping specialist Beacon Aviation to provide the highest quality aerial imagery, with extremely fast product delivery, at the lowest possible cost. This imagery can be integrated into any business solution to help your mapping and data needs.

BIS was provided an opportunity to team up with a remote sensing company, Beacon Aviation. Beacon is located out of Wood County Texas and has been providing aerial imagery services for over 20 years. Beacon has two planes equipped with camera’s and geo-location technology that provides imagery at 6” or better resolutions with survey grade level of accuracy.

BIS will utilize our suite of GIS skills and products to take Beacon’s imagery to the next level for our customers. Using our GIS software, we can process and build an image service that can be brought into our online web maps or their desktop software. Our customers then access their web map or desktop software and then click through the basemap selector to choose the imagery they want to view. They can then view other GIS data layers that overlay the image service.

With this partnership, Beacon will be able to capture the images and provide us the ortho-rectified image file within two weeks of a flight. We will be able to process that image and have it added to a customers map within a week or two. This means that our customers will have the information they need within weeks not months or even years like many of the other providers deliver.

For more information contact our GIS department HERE.

Mobile Field Data Mapping Solutions

Bring your maps and data into the field with ready to deploy solutions tailored to your business needs. BIS has partnered with PivotPoint and ESRI to provide your company easy to use mobile applications that increase efficiency and time for your field staff. The days of carrying stacks of field cards and figuring out the proper folding techniques for those paper maps are over.

With the advent of mobile device technology, many of the business processes that were traditionally performed in the office can now be efficiently done while performing field operations. This allows your field staff to ensure they have all the necessary information they need to accurately perform their duties in the field as wells as providing additional insight using maps in data stored on a mobile device.

These solutions are native mobile applications (iOS, Android, and Windows) that supports a variety of field workflows based on CAMA integration, from simply digitally marking up record cards and sketches to reviewing and editing property characteristics through wizard type forms.

GIS integration provides the option for a map centric field appraisal experience, and allows georeferenced data generated through the Field App to seamlessly populate ESRI GIS platforms.

For more information contact our GIS department HERE.

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