Wednesday, October 1, 2014

2 vie for county treasurerís position

Challenger would like to form investment committee

Express Staff Writer

    Longtime Blaine County Treasurer Vicki Heuett is being challenged this year by Ketchum native John David Davidson.
    Heuett, a Republican, has served as treasurer for the past 21 years. Before that, she served 18 years as chief deputy treasurer. At age 58, she said she would like to serve one or two more terms.
    The county treasurer is responsible for collecting property taxes and county fees, accounting for their receipt and dispersing those funds. He or she is also charged by Idaho code with administering the estates of people who die without a will or legal heirs. The treasurer is elected every four years.
    Probably the most important job of the position is to invest idle county money in order to reduce property taxes. In choosing investments, the treasurer must follow a policy created jointly by the treasurer, the county commissioners and the county prosecuting attorney in accord with state law, which limits the types of investments that can be made. Any substantive changes, Heuett said, need to be passed by the Legislature.
    Heuett said that about half the county’s investments are short-term, coming due within the current fiscal year, and about half go out beyond the current year.
    “You’ve got to get a feel for the cash flow,” she said.
    Heuett said county investments in certificates of deposit, federal bonds and the State Investment Pool raise about $400,000 each year. Since she took office, she said, that’s been an average annual rate of return of about 2 percent of invested funds.
    “I feel really good about the investment choices I’ve made,” she said.

I would love to continue working for the citizens of Blaine County.”
Vicki Heuett
Blaine County treasurer

    Heuett said one of her accomplishments as treasurer was the implementation of credit-card property tax payments. Taxes can now be paid online, by phone or in person.
    “People seem to like that,” she said.
    This November, she said, taxpayers will be able to sign up for e-bills rather than paper bills.
    Heuett said she’s enjoyed her time as county treasurer.
    “I would love to continue working for the citizens of Blaine County,” she said.
    Challenger John David Davidson, a Democrat, said he was motivated to run partly in appreciation for all that the area gave him as he was growing up here. A 2011 graduate of Whitman College with a degree in Spanish literature, he said he has gained finance skills through his experience managing a $450,000 budget on the finance committee of the Associated Students of Whitman College and managing an $85,000 budget as president of a fraternity there.
    Davidson, 25, is currently a co-owner of Idahound, a company in Carey that produces raw dog food, treats and supplements made from local ingredients, including sheep. The firm sells its products in five local stores, and Davidson he hopes to expand to Boise and other towns in the region.
    Davidson said his main goal as treasurer would be to create an investment committee, probably composed of volunteers, to make recommendations on investment decisions.
    “I would like to have clear and open management of county funds,” he said.
    Davidson contended that more of the county’s investments should be in FDIC-insured institutions and the State Investment Pool, which is also insured.
    He said he would like to see county department budgets, including the treasurer’s, posted more prominently on the county website.
    Davidson said he created computer files for the local office of Boise-based nonprofit Community Connections, which provides services to disabled people. He said he can provide skills to address some of the recommendations for improvement of county finances made in a 2013 auditor’s report. One of those was a suggestion that the county improve its files related to state and federal grants.    
    “I have technical skills that, with my energy and ambition, could really help the county,” he said.

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