- I Need to…
As Fiscal Year 2013 comes to an end, we see the fruit of previous years’ labor. Systems we changed during my first year as County Treasurer, combined with policy changes during my second year, have produced remarkable results for the office during my third year.
Investment Income is at its highest in five years, despite tight financial markets. We distributed a record amount of money to school districts in 2013, both in real terms and as a percentage of property tax distributions. Both of these examples suggest that my staff is performing our “dual mandate” with the professional skill I know they possess.
We also continue to poke and prod at every process in our office. If we can figure out a way to do it better and in a more cost-effective way, we take the chance and try. Sometimes we discover it was not as good an idea as we believed. Most times, however, we see greater benefits than expected.
Let me close by thanking my staff for their dedication to the mission. We handle the people’s money dependably. And when I saw “We,” I’m referring to my team for the job well done.
Steve Weber, CPA
Will County Treasurer
In order for an organization to be successful, it must have a vision. The Will County Treasurer’s Office remains dedicated to providing reliable banking services for county agencies, secure investment of your tax dollars, and trustworthy accounting services that provide transparency for county residents.
Financial Safety – We place the highest priority on the safety of the money we collect and invest. Our office will manage money in such a way that cultivates public trust and meets the county’s operating, payroll, capital and statutory disbursement requirements.
Strategic Innovation – We will find cost savings through measurable organizational strategy. We will evaluate improvements in the office on suitability (Would it work?), feasibility (Can it be made to work?), and acceptability (Will it work?)
Helpful Service – We value our role as a public servant. We will treat our customers for who they are: our employers and our neighbors.
We handle the people’s money dependably.
Priority #1: Financial Safety
The county’s total holdings at the end of December had a market value of $243.2-million. The Treasurer’s Office has invested $187.8-million (77.1%) across a variety of fixed income security types (excluding cash). The total portfolio (including cash) has a Yield-to-Maturity of 89.4 basis points (0.894%) with an average maturity of 1,743 days (4.7 years).
Paying for the Office for the Next Two Years
At the close of Fiscal Year 2013, the Treasurer’s Office earned $2.8-million in interest income on the county’s corporate investment portfolio in Fiscal Year 2013, a 79% increase from the previous year. For perspective, the operating account generated enough interest income to fund the Treasurer’s Office for the next two years.
Since being elected County Treasurer in 2010, Steve Weber has taken a more pro-active approach to investing the county’s cash holdings. The Treasurer’s Office invests the county’s money in a broad range of safe investments such as Treasury Bonds, Municipal Bonds, and other fixed income products. The result of this strategy has been safe, steady growth in investment earnings since 2010.
We analyze every investment opportunity for safety and security first, then performance. These priorities help ensure that we never invest taxpayer money in risky investments.
Taking Advantage of Opportunities
In October, the Treasurer’s Office sold a portion of the county’s investment portfolio in order to take advantage of short-term gains in the bond market. The move resulted in a gain of $26,478 more than had the investment matured in February 2014.
The opportunity arose when Bank of America tendered an offer to repurchase $4-billion worth of its own outstanding debt obligations. Of the sixteen (16) separate investments in the offer, the Treasurer’s Office held approximately $2.1-million worth in its short-term investment portfolio.
We made more money for the county by accepting this offer than we would have had we waited for the investments to mature. By working with our financial partners, we are making the most of the taxpayer’s money and hopefully reducing the cost of county government in the process.
The Cube Saves $35,700 in Postage in 2013
The Treasurer’s Office saved approximately $35,700 in postage when the County mailed tax sale notices last Fall. The savings is the result of a new practice set in place two years ago by Weber and his staff.
Two years ago, we noticed the law had some flexibility on how we mail the notices. The County can mail those bills as registered mail, or as certified mail, which is much cheaper. This new process is a better process because it reduces work on our staff in the form of hand addressing all of the certified mail forms. Historically, the Treasurer’s Office sent these notices as certified mail, which can be expensive and time consuming to prepare considering the number of parcels.
The County mailed 8,831 delinquent notices, which include bulk mail containing more than one tax notice. If the Treasurer’s Office sent those notices as Certified Mail, it would cost the County $53,983. By mailing notices as Registered Mail, the cost will be $18,298—a savings of $35,683.
End of Mailing Zero-Dollar Tax Bills
Believe it or not, Will County spent money to mail bills with a zero balance. And we did it for years.
This year, however, we put an end to that wasteful behavior once and for all.
In Illinois, property with an assessed value less than $150 owes no property tax. These “zero bills” are for public spaces such as parks, forest preserve areas, or other public land.
Last year, Treasurer’s Office staff manually set aside about 16,000 zero bills. It was a lot of work, but it saved $5,600 in postage. This year, we identified 15,873 zero bills before we printed them. We saved $9,841 in printing and postage expense in the process.
We provide copies of the bills upon request, but only one group made the request last year.
The real success is saving $15,441 over the past two years.
Priority #2: Making Government Work Better
Record Distribution to Schools
The Treasurer’s Office began collecting the 2012 Real Estate Property Tax Levy in May. Over the next six months, the office collected and distributed approximately $1.67-billion in real estate taxes on behalf of more than 360 taxing districts.
One of our priorities is to distribute as much of the first installment as possible before the end of the school district’s fiscal year on June 30, 2013. We want schools to have healthy cash flows so they can set budgets, seek grants, and develop long-term strategic plans.
As of June 27, 2013, the Treasurer’s Office collected and distributed 50.21% of the $1.69-billion levy. This is the largest distribution of property tax, both in real terms and percentage distributed, since Mr. Weber became County Treasurer in 2010. Uncollected balances were in line with historical results for items such as tax exempt refunds, tax appeals, and commercial and industrial abatements.
Priority #3: Making It Easier for the Public
Ending the Duplicate Tax Bill Fee
It has been a long-time practice in our office to charge property owners for a duplicate copy of their real estate tax bill. While the fee is small—only $2 per bill—it always struck me as odd that the county would charge a fee for a duplicate tax bill.
Since there is nothing in state law that says the Treasurer shall charge, Treasurer Weber asked his staff to work with the County Board to eliminate the fee. The County Board agreed with us and voted to eliminate the fee for property owners during their November meeting.
As of December 1st, the Will County Treasurer’s Office stopped charging for a duplicate tax bill to the registered property owner. Banks, mortgage companies, title companies, and other companies who request a duplicate tax bill, on the other hand, still pay $5 per parcel.
This change makes sense on several levels. We mail tax bills to property owners. If someone misplaces that bill, they should get a copy for free.
Now, in Will County, that is the case.
Property Tax Payment App
What does Will County Treasurer Steve Weber have in common with his counterparts in Miami, Florida and Seoul, South Korea? Weber’s office is now one of only a hand full world-wide with SmartPhone apps that allow people to research and make payments using their mobile devices.
The Treasurer’s Office released an Android App for public use in May. The app allows users to review and pay their Will County property taxes, find more than 100 local bank and credit union branches that accept payments, and contact their local Township Assessor’s office.
We designed this app for people on the go. People call us, sometimes in a panic, wanting to know where to go and how to pay.
Now, there’s an app for that.