Government agencies turning to SAS® Viya® to improve productivity with artificial intelligence

North Carolina county using machine learning to recalculate 400,000 property values with every sale

With government IT modernization efforts ramping up, many agencies are choosing the powerful analytics offered by the SAS Platform and its SAS Viya products. While the US government has mandated IT modernization for federal agencies, state and local governments can also benefit from a cloud-based, scalable, secure analytics platform that supports artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Learn more about the capabilities of SAS Viya and how SAS is used in government.

Rapid growth and a shorter reappraisal cycle spur need for more assessments

In 1980, Wake County, NC, was home to little more than 300,000 people. By 2016, the population exceeded one million. In a county that was once largely rural, that growth translates into a robust building environment and increasing property values. The Wake County Revenue Department is responsible for appraising properties for property tax purposes in 15 municipalities, plus unincorporated areas. Each jurisdiction is a unique area with its own supply and demand trends.

Since the last general reappraisal at the start of 2016, the number of parcels being assessed has increased by nearly 20,000. Previously, the Wake County Revenue Department had eight years to complete the general reappraisal on nearly 400,000 properties. This work will now be completed every four years, with officials currently updating values for Jan. 1, 2020.

“We couldn’t possibly hire and train enough appraisers and support staff fast enough to get our work done accurately on a shorter reappraisal cycle,” said Marcus Kinrade, Wake County’s Revenue Director.      

With such a dynamic market, Wake County officials need real-time information on how market values are changing. Over 3,000 parcels are sold each month, and even the simplest condominium unit can have more than 25 variables analyzed. The result is a massive amount of data. “We needed unbiased support to analyze our volumes of data, and SAS was the obvious choice,” said Kinrade.

Wake County turned to SAS and the powerful SAS Viya platform to identify changing market trends every day for every property. SAS built cloud-based models for Wake County that consider hundreds of factors and daily property sales to offer timely, objective, highly accurate market forecasts.

The system independently predicts a Jan. 1, 2020, market value for each property based on recent sales data. There are dozens of inputs that affect property value, including such factors as location, size and finishes. The model employs decision trees to estimate sale prices based on a series of decisions: How much heated area does the house contain? Does the property have vinyl siding or a brick exterior? And so on. With every home sale, the model is refined to become more precise.

County appraisers first perform their own analysis and determine values for each property, then turn to SAS Viya for an objective second opinion. Properties are currently selling quickly in the county, and these sales, in turn, influence market values for all properties.

According to Kinrade, “SAS Viya performs an independent, data-driven, objective analysis for each property that can be compared with our appraisers’ analysis and assumptions to validate accuracy or identify divergence. This helps us to quickly identify neighborhoods that may require additional review to determine what is causing the divergence and make any necessary adjustments. The goal is to make sure the new market values we assess on Jan. 1, 2020, are as fair, accurate and equitable as possible.”

Machine learning on the SAS® Viya® platform

The Wake County tax assessment model was built with repeatability in mind so that it can be adopted by other governments with minimal customization. It is powered by the artificial intelligence capabilities of SAS Visual Data Mining and Machine Learning. SAS VDMML supports the end-to-end data mining and machine learning with a comprehensive, visual (and programming) interface that handles all tasks in the analytical life cycle from data to discovery to deployment. Part of the SAS Viya suite of products, SAS VDMML suits a variety of users and there is no switching between applications to complete the analyses. From data management to model development and deployment, every user works in the same, integrated environment.

SAS® Viya® gaining steam in the public sector

In the US, the Modernizing Government Technology Act sets goals for federal agencies to upgrade aging technology infrastructure and urges the use of cloud storage. The US Postal Service and a major government statistical agency have recently adopted SAS Viya to help with those efforts.

Other governments in the US and beyond that have chosen SAS Viya include the Alberta Ministry of Labour, Centers for Disease Control Ministry of Health and Welfare, R.O.C. (Taiwan), Florida Department of Environmental Protection, North Carolina Department of Transportation, Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, and Smart Cities Council 2018 Readiness Challenge Grant Winner Cary, NC.

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