The Issues

image8

Re-branding the Office

After taking office in 2016 I began working on changing the image of the office. My goal was to restore trust and bring it into the 21st century. In order to do this I implemented a new strategic plan that would shift the focus to the taxpayer. Our vision is "To be a trusted office that provides peace of mind to our local taxpayers". Having established a plan, I was able to better steer my staff through a series of new polices and procedures that would take us to the next level of productivity and customer service. 

Collections

Our collection plan is simple, make our office more available to the public and collections will increase organically. One often thinks of collections as letters with "Important" or "Final Notice" written on them, or government employees knocking on your door. The truth is that the success from our collection efforts comes from availability of services, information, and communication.  

Investments

The primary objective of the county’s portfolio is preservation of principal. We only invest in government backed securities, and collateralized assets. An economic downturn may cause yield compression, but the principle is not exposed to risk of loss. Secondly, we follow an investment policy that already mitigates for risk. Third, our current strategy is to stay on a laddered approach. As investments come due, we reinvest them according to liquidity needs. Our maturities are staggered so that we can replace assets with current market rates. Basically, we are spreading risk and averaging returns.  

Transparency

Information about the office can always be found online, however most people may not understand financial statements nor even care to look at them, so in 2018 we started sending out a newsletter with the second half tax notices that included important information about the office and tax distribution data. The purpose of the newsletter is to make tax information easier to read and thus informative to the general public.   

Accounting

There are three key roles that keep our office running, cash operations, distribution, and reconciliation. Neither of these roles is simple and it is imperative for a County Treasurer to have a good understating of all these responsibilities. As an example, in 2018 our lead accountant retired and due to a series of misfortunes, we were unable to replace her immediately. In order for the cash management process to continue running smoothly I was the only person that could step into that position. Sleepless nights are common from time to time, but having a basic understanding and a willingness to work have made me a more flexible leader.  

Operations

As an incumbent I appreciate having an opponent in an election that will make me stop and take a look at my performance. I have achieved many milestones for the office, many of which are not apparent to the public, but I agree that there are always improvements that can be made such as  automated reconciliation and distribution processing, payment kiosks, new custodial banking relationships, increased local bank deposits without collateral burdens. Nevertheless in order for me to continue these improvements I need to be in office. 

Active and Accountable Leadership

In early 2018 my staff alerted me of a missing deposit that had not made it to the County's bank account. I immediately did my due diligence and followed protocol to track those funds. Due to a logging process that we have in place, we were able to determine that the courier service, a third party contracted provider for the prior 6 years, had not delivered the deposit to the bank. We allowed sufficient time for this vendor to track the mistake, but their failure to resolve it in a timely manner forced us to end their services and report it to law enforcement. In addition we followed up with legal, risk management, and county management for a cooperative effort to retrieve the missing deposit. The deposit was returned to us in it's entirety and needless to say we have since moved on to a new vendor. Due to this incident we were able to re-evaluate and update our procedures. As a leader I have been able to proactively work with others to find resolutions. Furthermore I have taken accountability on any deficiencies that my office may have and improved on them.

PACE

Property Assessed Clean Energy, is a program whereby a homeowner will go into a contract with a lender to purchase renewable energy sources for their home. The lender places a tax lien on the home, and the County Treasurer collects on the loan payments through the tax bill. In 2019 I took a stand against this program primarily because I, and all Treasurer's in NM, were concerned about the integrity of the tax bill. I argued that a Treasurer should not collect for a private entity, in addition to other concerns such as the first lien priority on the home, which can hurt the local real estate market.   While I strongly believe in clean energy efforts, loan programs must be carefully scrutinized. 

Legislative Efforts

As an administrative official I do not create nor approve policy. I can however still participate. In 2019 the county body of elected officials elected me to represent Doña Ana County on the board of Directors for New Mexico Counties. The board reviews and approves support or opposition to legislation that directly impacts Counties. Current legislation that I will be focusing on is relief for taxpayers that are penalized for not making their tax payment due to COVID-19 impacts. 

Community Outreach

One of the objectives from my strategic plan is to establish a robust community outreach program that will educate both adults and children about taxation. Often times taxes are seen as a negative part of life and some have even called it theft. The fact of the matter is that our community depends of these tax dollars and as a County Treasurer I feel that it is my responsibility to change that perception. While we currently have an outreach program, I am now working to expand that effort with our local schools in order to make it more effective.  

Chief Deputy Treasurer

In early 2017 I announced Arturo Sanchez as my Chief Deputy Treasurer. Arturo was working in the office at the time and his qualifications include a degree in Business Technology and 4 years prior experience as a Chief Deputy Treasurer in Chavez County. He is originally from Dona Ana County, and a graduate from Gadsden High School. During my term he has been instrumental in fully integrating a new collection software system and the day to day operations of the office. His strong work ethic, sound moral standards, and easy going personality have helped me move the office forward.