LISBON — When new county treasurer Bryan Blakeman took office last September, he wanted to make a few changes to improve efficiency and the technology used at the office.
One of his first changes, he admits, surprised some people. The property tax collection date set in Columbiana County was later than the date set by the revised Ohio code and second half collection checks were still being processed when he took office. September 1. Blakeman said the later date was due to an extension of the collection date, which was pushed back for years by his predecessor, former treasurer Linda Bolon.
While the state allows county treasurers to request an extension anytime the collection date will go beyond Feb. 15 for the first half and Aug. 4 for the second half, Blakeman said he wants to move the dates where they should have been without the extension.
His efforts to achieve this with this year’s first fundraiser were met with a plethora of phone calls from people, who may not have been prepared or actually in the area to coincide with the new due date of tax. Blakeman said there was no malicious intent to move the date and he worked with many people who were discouraged by the change.
Second-half taxes are due July 29.
After that, Blakeman said there will be a longer lull before tax collections for the first half of next year are due, but the schedule will be on track to where it should be. He admits the first change was rough, but now there should always be roughly the same number of months between collections that people are used to for collections.
The earlier dates should help schools, cities and other entities, which depend on this tax money, to get it sooner.
He also has new tech plans in mind to help those paying their property taxes, including those traveling south for the winter.
Currently, he said the county treasurer’s office spends $30,000 a year on postage. He hopes to reduce this expense by 20 to 30%. By next year, he wants to allow people to receive their tax bills electronically, rather than by mail, if they choose to do so. He contracted with a software company, which would provide electronic delivery of tax bills and enable electronic payments.
Additionally, a kiosk has been commissioned that will allow county property owners to pay their bills in the courthouse lobby as another option to wait in the lines that form in the final days before taxes are due. are due.
Other changes Blakeman said he was proud of during his first nine months in office include:
– Acquired a new .gov website domain for the Treasurer’s Office, which provides his office with better security and email addresses indicating that the email is from the Treasurer’s Office and not the Auditor’s Office . The treasurer’s office is also on the county’s mainnet, which he says offers better security and on-site technical support.
— Credit card processing was offered for the Recorder, Clerk of Courts, and County Treasurer’s Office, which Blakeman says expanded people’s abilities to pay by credit card. credit.
— A laptop was purchased and configured for offsite work, in case an employee needed to work from outside the courthouse, which happened when the pandemic pushed people to work from home .
–Blakeman said he changed the custodial banks for Huntington County funds to US Bank, which saves county taxpayers about $20,000 a year in administration fees.
– Employees in his office, most of whom he inherited from when Bolon was in charge, have chosen to disband their union, Blakeman said.
– Additionally, he said he has been working to move currently unused money from the American Rescue Plan Act into higher-yielding, short-term investments that earn more interest. Blakeman also invited Jim McCourt, the county investment adviser of Meeder Investment Management, to attend quarterly county investment advisory committee meetings and explain investment strategies to other committee members. The three county commissioners and Clerk of the Courts Anthony Datillio are on the committee, along with Blakeman.
– Finally, Blakeman said he aggressively pursues those with multi-year tax arrears. There were 150 backlog tax court cases filed in 2019 and 177 filed in 2020. There were 226 filed in 2021, some before and some after Blakeman took office on May 1. September.≠≠