Vail Daily column: How Eagle County is managing your tax dollars
These are busy times in the Eagle County Treasurer and Public Trustee’s Office. We’re working to collect the remaining property tax payments, getting ready to transition banking services and diligently managing county funds to maximize interest income with a close eye on protecting our investment principal.
It is the time of year when all property taxes should be fully paid, but about 850 accounts out of 49,000 are now past due. In September and early October, we are required by law to publish in our local papers the list of owners, along with the amounts past due. Ultimately, if these accounts remain unpaid, the resulting taxes will be sold to investors on Nov. 2 at our annual online tax sale, creating liens against the properties.
The annual interest rate for tax liens is 9 percent above the federal discount rate, with last year coming in at 10 percent. This year’s interest will likely be higher. This rate of return to a lien purchaser will be paid when the property owner redeems his or her taxes. If, at the end of three years, the owner of the property has not paid the taxes, then the investors can apply for a treasurer’s deed, which transfers the ownership of the property to them. Tax lien sales are open to the public, but not county employees. For more information, access http://www.eaglecounty.us/ treasurer, or give us a call.
Several months ago, we evaluated our banking service providers. Eagle County is fortunate to have many capable and professional banking options from which to choose, and we were interested in what we might find. In the end, and after careful comparison we decided to go with FirstBank. Our new services will save the county a significant amount of money in coming years.
Making sure there is sufficient funding to cover cash-flow needs for county operations is an important part of the job of treasurer. I’ve worked closely with our finance department to identify cash-flow needs, manage short- and long-term investments and ensure funds are ready to go for everything from office supplies to open-space purchases. Without this careful planning, we could find ourselves short of cash and potentially needing to sell a bond before maturity, possibly taking a loss.
We also always look for safe ways to increase our interest revenue. If the Federal Reserve continues to increase interest rates, it will help in the longer term, and we will continue active management of our cash between checking and money-market accounts. In the first six months of this year, we’ve more than doubled our interest income compared to the same quarter in 2016, so our strategy appears to be working well. January through June 2016, this amount was $66,000, and this year for the same period it was $145,000.
I’ve been in this office for almost nine months, and not a day goes by that I don’t appreciate the knowledge, dedication and professionalism of my team. My team really knows their stuff, and it’s complicated stuff. As we collect, accurately distribute the taxes and manage our own funds, we make every effort to be efficient, precise and responsible to our customers: you. It is our pleasure to help the county achieve its goals of being financially sound and being a high performing organization.
Teak Simonton is the Eagle County treasurer and public trustee. If you have feedback or questions, then contact Simonton at email@example.com or 970-328-8868.