Friday, October 31, 2014

County treasurer

Q & A


Vicki Heuett (I)

Age: 58.

Education: Certificate in general accounting from LaSalle University in Chicago. Certificate of finance executive from North Idaho College. Chancellor’s certificate of public administration for finance executive from the University of Missouri.

Current employment: Blaine county treasurer.

Government/public service: Hired as Blaine County deputy treasurer in 1975, promoted to chief deputy treasurer. Appointed county treasurer in 1993; first ran for the office in 1994 with no opposition until this year. Received the Mills-Adler award for Outstanding Elected Official in 2004. President of the District IV Elected Officials (eight counties in our district) 2004-2005. President of the Idaho Association of County Treasurers from 2007-2008. Member of the National Association of County Collectors, Treasurers and Finance Officers and attended several national conferences. Served on numerous committees over the years for the Treasurers Association and the Idaho Association of Counties. Currently serving as chair of the Education Committee and chairman of the CAI Financial Committee for the Treasurers Association. Blaine County Fair Board; Sawtooth Rangers, helped organize several fundraisers for the Hailey Rodeo Park;  and Black Jack Ketchum Shootout Gang.

Why running: I am running for office because I have the proven financial leadership and the experience that this position requires and I enjoy working for the citizens of Blaine County.

Party affiliation: Republican.

 

Are the county’s investments as strong as they could be? If not, how could they be improved?

     The treasurer’s first duty is to safely keep all money that comes into the county. First and foremost, I insure that that money is readily available for the day-to-day operational needs of the county. I work diligently with our local bankers to insure that this money is receiving the best rate of return. When investing idle funds, my first priority is safety, liquidity and yield in that order. Blaine County’s investment portfolio consists of CDs in Idaho FDIC financial institutions, U.S. government agencies that are all AA plus or AAA rated and the Idaho State Investment Pool. I have a very good mix of short- and long-term maturities, callables and non-callables and protection against raising interest rates with our step-up coupons. All investments are insured and/or collateralized, which leaves very little risk.

 

Are the county’s services regarding property tax payments as good as they could be? If not, how could they be improved?

     I work closely with my taxpayers and listen to suggestions. I have implemented ways to help ease the burden of paying taxes and have also helped my department be more efficient and effective. Our taxpayers have the ability to pay with credit cards or e-checks online, by phone or over the counter with no cost to Blaine County. I contract with a local bank for lockbox services so tax payments are processed faster. The Treasurer’s Office exchanges electronic files with mortgage companies, and payments are wired directly to the bank. We also take advantage of remote deposit to insure that all checks received in the office are in the bank the same day and earning interest. My staff is fully cross-trained and very knowledgeable of Idaho code pertaining to the Treasurer’s Office and the collection of property tax, thereby providing excellent customer service to our taxpayers and citizens.

 

How could technological innovations be used to improve services at the Treasurer’s Office?

     There are a lot of things to consider when considering new technological innovations. First, would it be a measurable benefit to the taxpayers and citizens of Blaine County? Would it be compatible with our software that we have already invested in? Is it allowable by Idaho code? What is the cost? I have just implemented the ability for property owners to register for e-bills this year (electronic bills first had to be approved by the Legislature, which was done in the last session). The information for e-bills will be enclosed with the 2014 property tax notice that will be mailed soon. I thoroughly research all new ideas to see if they would be beneficial to our citizens. If I find it to be, and it is costly, I take it through my outcome-based budgeting process to see if it will meet the approval of the Board of County Commissioners.

 


 

 

John David Davidson

Age: 26

Education: Bachelor’s degree from Whitman College.

Current employment: Co-founder and co-owner of Idahound, manufacturer of raw pet food made from locally sourced ingredients.

Previous government/public service: Worked for the developmental disability agency Community Connections, communicating with governmental agencies including the Department of Health and Welfare, Medicaid services and several school districts, and helping with community outreach, accounting, billing and payroll. Four years in leadership at Whitman College, including class senator and president of Beta Theta Pi fraternity. On the Associated Students of Whitman College Finance Committee that managed $450,000 budget, and managed an $85,000 budget as president of the fraternity. Mentored, volunteered and tutored at various elementary schools, initiated and organized major fundraising campaigns for various events for in association of Whitman College as well as for mentor program at Green Park Elementary School. Volunteered for the Sun Valley Summer Symphony, the Sun Valley Writer’s Conference and the Democratic Party. Worked three consecutive summers building homes for families in Mexico with the Esperanza Volunteer Group. Volunteered at Blaine Manor and provided manual labor to get both Soldier Mountain and Rotarun ski areas ready for the ski season. Volunteered for Get Out the Vote.

Why running: I am running for county treasurer because it is time to make progressive changes to a position that hasn’t seen improved investment management practices, oversight and transparency for quite some time. The world of banking and investing is getting far more complicated, and I have the skill set as well as the organizational and business experience to make a positive impact to this position. I have a strong sense of responsibility and a need to give back to a community that has given me so much.  

Party affiliation: Democrat.

Are the county’s investments as strong as they could be? If not, how could they be improved?

     No. Barclay’s Aggregate Index shows an annualized yield rate of 5.54 percent for the last 15 years, and the iShares 1- to 3-year Treasury Bond Index has a 10-year 2.4 percent average yield. We currently have an average rate of return of 2 percent. With better investment management, we could be increasing returns.

 

     Are the county’s services regarding property tax payments as good as they could be? If not, how could they be improved?

     It’s great we have a credit-card property tax payment now and someday we’ll have e-bills, but we could also explore electronic automatic payment options, incorporate mobile payments and consider opening the Treasurer’s Office from four days a week to five. We need to be more accessible to the public.

 

How could technological innovations be used to improve services at the Treasurer’s Office?

     The incorporation of electronic automatic payments and mobile payments, coupled with updating the website to include our investment policy, types of county investments and a brief explanation of our investment decisions, would improve services while also informing taxpayers where their money is going and why.




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