I read a letter to the editor recently (Herald, April 1) with the headline, ”Tips for candidates applying for a job.”
The letter-writer called for voters to be able to describe the job candidates were seeking, to vote with the best available information. I am responding to that request.
The La Plata County treasurer and public trustee are statutory offices, governed by Colorado state law. These two offices perform very different functions: one processes tax revenue from a variety of local, state and federal sources; the other processes “deeds of trust,” a legal document attached to real estate transactions, and foreclosures on real estate. There is no overlap, other than to take property away from people if they fail to pay their taxes, or fail to pay their mortgage. There are literally hundreds of laws that govern these two offices. All these state laws are to ensure “due process,” as provided for in the United States and the Colorado constitutions.
Only half of the transactions processed by the treasurer’s office involve property tax. Three employees processed over 150,000 transactions last year, up from 130,000 the prior year.
Use of electronic payment methods has improved productivity greatly. So please, pay your property tax by e-check (online at bit.ly/2HklF3H) or through lockbox (the address on your coupon), which can process more than 5,000 payments per hour. These two methods are available at no cost to you. Remember, April 30 is the full-payment deadline.
Another reason for using these efficient payment methods is that we can invest your dollars in overnight funds, which earn interest. Before we had same-day deposits available, in 2014, we earned $40,000. In 2017, we earned $360,000. This past quarter, we earned $155,000. As the county is facing a revenue shortage, every little bit helps!
But the office needs to balance efficiency with effectiveness. In the last couple of decades, the county population has doubled, increasing workload, while the treasurer’s office staff size has remained constant.
Technology upgrades have redefined the skills needed to do the job. In the last year, we have hired people with significant accounting and auditing experience. Complex bank reconciliations can now be done in the office. In the last three years, we have also implemented many fraud protections.
The law says anyone can review the books of the county treasurer upon request. Very little is confidential, as the public needs to be able to trust that the books are accurate – and not just wait for the annual fiscal audit.
To increase transparency, we are putting more documents on the website. If you want more information, please stop by and request it. We have more than 50,000 taxpayer accounts and you keep us honest by asking for receipts and checking the website.
The treasurer’s office has more than 1,600 revenue accounts reviewed annually by multiple auditors, not just the county’s. Auditors from the city of Durango, the town of Bayfield, the school districts and dozens of others review them also.
La Plata County has always received an unqualified or unmodified audit report – the highest rating possible. The treasurer’s ledger supplies the revenue information to the financial reports. The treasurer’s ledger has been audited as materially correct every year. However, Colorado law holds treasurers to a higher standard and requires all revenue accounts to balance to the penny.
This information must be published in the newspaper every six months so the public can be assured that the treasurer is following the law, and keeping accurate accounts. In short, the treasurer’s job is billing and collections, and accounting expertise is required.
Allison Aichele is the La Plata County treasurer. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6352.