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Tax office employees get memo on how to act

By Karissa Minn
kminn@salisburypost.com
As the county assessor’s office gets ready for revaluation appeals, it is reminding employees to be on their best behavior, mind their manners and sit up straight.
A memo presented to staff this week outlines a behavior policy for those who work with or in view of the public. Among them are rules against employees “belching or passing gas” and slumping in their chairs.
Workers also are told not to curse, put their feet up, read magazines or newspapers, yell across the room to co-workers, gather around desks, eat lunch at their desks, text message or take non-emergency calls on their cell phones. They should use soft, quiet voices and make sure to acknowledge members of the public who walk in.
In addition, “Any behavior viewed by a co-worker as offensive will not be tolerated.”
Rowan County Tax Administrator Jerry Rowland said management staff periodically reminds the office of “the importance of professional conduct.” The memo lists a mix of old and new rules.
“Those are things we all know that you don’t do, but it’s best to cover them on a consistent basis,” Rowland said. “We expect a little more exposure to taxpayers over the next several months, so we are preparing our staff as best we can.”
Rowland said the rule governing bodily functions is about respect. Digestive offenses that can’t be helped should be followed by an “I’m sorry” or “excuse me.”
“That referred to one person being disrespectful to others, and we straightened that out,” Rowland said. “But we felt that was necessary to make sure it was on record so that it wouldn’t happen again.”
He said a policy setting the room temperature between 70 to 75 degrees in winter was created because the heat often was turned too high to warm the office after the weekend.
Many of the rules relate to an item in the memo that states, “Understand that ‘perception is reality’ and when the public walks into our office, what they see any one of us doing is what they believe it to be — real or not — true or false!”
Rowland said management staff began talking with employees individually Monday to go over the standards of behavior in the memo. That way, they’ll be prepared when revaluation notices are mailed out next week and the office is flooded with questions and appeals.
Barbara McGuire, real and personal property manager for the county, said employees sometimes look through the Post for work related reasons.
“That person’s working, but someone who walks in might think, ‘They’re just reading the newspaper,’ ” McGuire said. “We want people to be aware that we take this seriously and do good work here.”
She said staff should be — and is — professional, respectful and attentive with the public. The memo instructs those employees who work with the public not to give advice outside of listing, assigning a value to or billing an asset.
“The offering of advice or subjective interpretations regarding legal, personal or business questions will not be allowed by our staff, especially those questions that would best be answered by a member of the legal profession,” Rowland wrote in an e-mail Wednesday to the Post and County Manager Gary Page.
Page said he understands the reasoning behind the policy, which only applies to the tax assessor’s office and did not need to be approved by the county human resources department.
“The tax office is the No. 1 department where the county interfaces with the public,” Page said. “A lot of times it’s with people who are not happy with having to write a check to pay their taxes. Any little thing that looks out of order becomes bigger a deal.”
The last line of the memo says, “I have read and understand the above-stated points and agree to abide by them while at work,” but McGuire said employees are not required to sign it.
Rowland said violation of a rule will be brought to an employee’s attention, and disciplinary action only will be taken for repeat offenders. Download a copy of the memo here.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.

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