Sheaffer, unopposed, still wants votes |

Sheaffer, unopposed, still wants votes

Scott N. Miller
NWS Karen Scheaffer SM 9-27-06

EAGLE COUNTY – In a way, Karen Sheaffer is running against herself this fall.Sheaffer is running unopposed for her third full term as Eagle County treasurer, but she still wants people to mark her name on the ballot this fall. “I see it as a report card,” Sheaffer said. “I want people to report to me whether I’m doing a good job.”

Sheaffer received the most votes of any county candidate four years ago, and wants to match that this year.”If I get the least amount of votes, I’m going to be depressed,” she said.This is the fourth time Sheaffer has faced voters without an opponent. The first time almost didn’t happen.Sheaffer was appointed to the county treasurer’s job in 1996 after Sherry Brandon resigned a little more than a year into her second term. At the time, Sheaffer was Brandon’s top deputy, and wasn’t sure she wanted the top job.”I loved being the deputy,” she said. “I loved the job, I loved the office, and I liked the work. I knew I could be the deputy as long as I wanted to.”She also knew she’d be guaranteed a job only from February through early January of 1997 if she took Brandon’s job.”It was the biggest risk I’d taken,” Sheaffer said.The risk seems to have paid off. With her election assured, Sheaffer agreed to talk about what exactly a county treasurer and her employees do.”People get the assessor and I mixed up a lot,” she said.In a nutshell, then, here are the main jobs Sheaffer and her staff do:

This is probably at the top of the list.Sheaffer’s office handles all the property tax collections for the county, as well as the Eagle County School District and other agencies.”Somewhere in the first year I started setting goals, and goal one was to get to 100 percent tax collection,” Sheaffer said. “No one thought it would ever happen.”That goal is still out there, but Sheaffer and her employees come close.”We’re at something like 99.99 percent,” she said.It’s obvious those uncollected taxes still irritate Sheaffer.”We just don’t have the resources to chase down a business owner who has closed down and moved out of the county,” she said.Most property taxes come in through mortgage companies, since taxes are part of most people’s house payments.For those who write checks for their real estate or personal property taxes, Sheaffer and her employees try to call as many people as possible when their tax bills are due. Staff members will also call people who end up on the delinquent tax list because of mistakes in paperwork.”We try to help people understand why they’re being taxed,” she said.

If people don’t pay their taxes, their property goes into an annual sale. At that sale, buyers can pay the back taxes on a piece of property. In return, buyers get a certificate good for a 15 percent annual return on their money. If a property owner doesn’t make good on his tax bill for three years, the person who bought the first tax certificate gets the property.Property almost never changes hands, Sheaffer said, and not many properties are part of the annual sale. For the past few years, fewer than 100 properties have gone into the sale. There are about 250 names on the list this year, but the list of properties that actually go into the sale will be much smaller, since many people with delinquent taxes pay them before the sale.Sheaffer’s staff splits up the list and calls people with delinquent taxes. “Nine out of 10 people we call thank us,” she said.For those who take part, or want to know more about the sales, Sheaffer also holds a seminar for potential investors. This year’s seminar is the night before the Nov. 8 sale.

The yearly tax sale isn’t the only one Sheaffer’s office holds. There’s also a weekly sale of properties that have been foreclosed. Those sales – held every Wednesday – are run through the “public trustee,” a title Sheaffer also holds.While Colorado’s foreclosure rate is tops in the United States, Sheaffer said Eagle County’s rate isn’t as high as the rest of the state.”We’re not as busy now as we were three years ago,” she said.There are still plenty of foreclosures, though, many of which are in time-share properties.Sheaffer said she and her employees try to work with both lenders and home owners to make sure all parties are following the law and aware of their rights. But, she said, she isn’t particularly eager to help investors looking to profit on foreclosures.”I don’t believe in telling an investor how to make money off those sales,” she said.

The Eagle County Treasurer also manages the county’s investments.To do that, she hires an investment company to manage the money, virtually all of which goes into government-backed bonds and securities.The county also invests money into local banks, all of which have to provide financial status reports.The county will make a bit more than $2 million in interest this year, Sheaffer said. That amount has doubled recently because of rising interest rates.And not much money comes into or leaves the county offices without Sheaffer knowing about it.””We have the cash-flow records,” Sheaffer said. “We know when money’s spent and when it comes in. If the county’s going to spend $6 million on a gravel pit, I’m going to come up with the money.” Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 748-2930, or Daily, Vail Colorado

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