Editor’s note: This is the second of a continuing series on Tooele County Corporation’s offices and employees who serve the public.
Jeremy Walker is Tooele County’s tax collector. As county treasurer much of what goes in his office involves the billing and collection of property taxes. Walker, along with two other full-time employees, bill, collect and distribute around $43 million in tax dollars.
The treasurer’s office also properly deposits and accounts for receipts of payments made to all county departments; refunds overpayments of taxes; reconciles monthly the balance of funds on hands with receipt records; and prepares research and analysis for county officials and the public.
Walker will accomplish the work of the treasurer’s office with a $267,000 budget for 2013, which is down 7.6 percent from his 2012 budget.
The decrease in the budget was accomplished by the loss of one staff member and cutting the budget for materials and supplies, he said.
“As a result service might be slower at times, especially during the peak of tax collection season,” said Walker. “It may take longer to research a question and it may take longer to return phone calls.”
The 2013 treasurer’s budget may be subject to additional reductions as a result of the county commission’s announcement last week that they are reopening the 2013 budget to look for more savings.
The tax collection process involves four county departments and the treasurer’s office comes in at the end, according to Walker.
The process starts in the recorder’s office which records the boundaries of parcels of property and the name and address of landowners. Then the assessor’s office determines the taxable value of each parcel of property. From the assessor’s office the tax process moves to the county auditor who uses the taxable values to calculate the certified tax rate for all taxing entities, such as the county, school district, municipalities, and all service districts. Certified tax rates are approved by the Utah State Tax Commission and a tax rate is adopted by the governing board of all taxing entities.
The treasurer’s job is to send a tax notice to the address on record for all property owners. Years ago the process of determining taxes and collecting taxes involved a large book of property records that was physically passed around from one department to the next in the courthouse, said Walker.
Today the records are all in electronic format. The annual tax notice must contain the amount of property tax by the taxing entity, and the date, time and place of budget hearings for each taxing entity. Tax bills must be mailed by Nov. 1 and taxes must be paid by Nov. 30.
Many residential property owners pay their taxes through their monthly payments to the financial institution that financed their home. The institution adds on an amount to the mortgage payments that goes into an escrow account that is used to pay the property taxes.
Property tax information is sent electronically to banks and mortgage companies, but a statement is also sent to the homeowner as it is the homeowner’s ultimate responsibility to make sure that the property taxes are paid, said Walker.
The treasurer’s office collects and posts payments for property taxes in November.
By Dec. 1 of each year state law requires the treasurer’s office to publish, either in print or online, a list of all delinquent taxpayers. Walker posts the delinquent list on his website and sends a postcard notice to all delinquent taxpayers.
As treasurer, Walker also is responsible to make sure that all fees or payments from county departments are deposited into county accounts, and proper entry for the deposits are made in the county’s accounting system. Walker’s office reconciles cash in the bank monthly with the county’s records to make sure the two match.
Walker also prepares reports required by the state treasurer’s office and does analysis of cash flow for county commissioners and other department heads.
The treasurer’s office also responds to requests from the public to research records of past payments of property taxes. Walker, who was elected in 2010, is serving his first term as county treasurer. Elections for county officers, including treasurer, will be held in 2014.