Examples of quantifiable GIS benefits

Massachusetts communities describe some typical savings of time and money due to their GIS

City of Cambridge

  • Since the Assessors parcel map information became available via the city's web site, walk-in visits to the Assessor's office have dropped 20%.
  • The time required for determining if an arrest for dealing drugs occurred within 1000 feet of a school has gone from about two hours to about five minutes. This determination is important, because people convicted of dealing drugs within 1000 feet of a school are subject to longer prison terms.
  • The time required for producing mailing labels for abutter notifications, a capability required by many departments (e.g., Assessing, Public Works, Planning, City Clerk, Licensing, Historical Commission, Traffic), has gone from between two hours and two days to about ten or fifteen minutes.

City of Fitchburg

  • By comparing the area of a parcel calculated by the GIS with the area listed in the Assessors database, finding errors and making the necessary corrections in lot area, the city gained $225,000 in assessed value for the first ten properties corrected.
  • We completed the state-mandated CSO plan with assistance from the GIS. There are significant mapping requirements associated with those plans. DPW-Engineering estimated that we saved the city thousands of dollars in the first phase of the plan preparation alone.

Town of Hingham

The Town of Hingham was looking to put out a RFP for lawn mowing of all town fields. It was difficult to ask for a bid without giving the amount of area to be cut. Using GIS we were able to identify all the parcels and then using the orthophoto base maps available through MassGIS to identify and calculate the area of grass on each parcel. The only other way to get an area of grass would have been to go out and physically measure the areas. It was estimated that it would have cost $5,000 to $10,000 to have a surveyor do this work. The town does not have anyone on staff qualified to do it.

Town of Marshfield

The Town's Assessor needed to re-draw the assessment neighborhood's used in determining assessed values. These neighborhoods represent areas that are homogenous with respect to location factors such as proximity to a water. The neighborhood classification is a key element in establishing assessed value. The assessor estimates that it would have taken one person full-time for a year driving around and looking at all approximately 12,000 parcels in Marshfield, classifying each parcel into a neighborhood by drawing on a paper map. Besides the staff cost, there would have been substantial transportation costs. Marshfield did not have staff available for the task and so would have had to contract for this service, further increasing the cost. However, with the town's newly developed GIS, the Assessor was able to complete this task by devoting about 75% of her time over 45 days. This work involved displaying different areas of the town on a computer screen. For each area, the assessor's parcel boundaries were drawn along with an orthophoto base map, topographic contours, surface waters, and wetlands. All except the parcel data were acquired from MassGIS. In the end, the number of neighborhoods had increased from nine to 31. The town's GIS not only saved money over the alternative approach, but provided further refinement of the assessment neighborhoods, thus improving the quality of the evaluation used in determining assessed values.

City of Newton

  • Using the GIS to produce mailing labels for abutter notification saves at least 500 hours staff time annually.
  • The GIS provides map features for using in engineering drawings, instead of creating the same information from scratch every time; this saves approximately 80 staff hours annually.
  • The GIS was used to map the locations of properties that, according to the water/sewer billing system, were not connected to the city sewer system. A review of the map by city staff familiar with the sewer system identified many properties that were in fact connected; this resulted in the city collecting approximately $8,000 in additional sewer fees annually.
  • The GIS is used to produce hundreds of maps annually for the public; the fee covering staff time and materials produces approximately $4,000 in general revenue.
  • The city's aerial-photo GIS base map (“orthophotos”) provided conclusive evidence in city's favor for a personal property assessment dispute. This resulted in a one-time additional $61,800 in tax revenue.
  • A consultant developed custom bus stop assignment and bus routing tools for the city's GIS software for a cost of about $15,000. These assignments not only took into account what school the child was going to, but the distance to the nearest bus stop over the street network without crossing pre-identified busy streets. The student-to-stop and stop-to-bus assignments made by the GIS were more efficient resulting in Newton having one additional bus available annually (a value of about $49,000).