What is your background and experience?
My name is Renee McDaniel. My background is in accounting. I have a master’s degree in business administration and I am also a certified public accountant. I have about 25 years experience working in the corporate sector.
What changes will you implement and how will they affect citizens? How will you pay for them?
Well, the changes that I see initially would be to change the web site, to make it a little more user friendly for the taxpayers. Right now, I don’t think it’s as easy as it could be for taxpayers to pay their taxes online and with credit cards. So, initially, I think those changes would be simple and not costly. In addition to that, or, I guess along the same lines, with trying to simplify things for taxpayers, I think we need to offer a voluntary escrow program. That’s where taxpayers volunteer to pay one-twelfth of their real estate taxes each month, rather than pay six months at a time so that way they’re working with a smaller dollar amount and hopefully it will be easier for them to make the payment and not get into a delinquent situation. I think our tax delinquencies are high and I’d like to do whatever I could to improve that and speed up the collection of real estate taxes. So initially I don’t see any changes that we’d have that would cost the taxpayers any additional money, where in fact I would like to speed up the whole process and collect taxes quicker and put more money into the county coffers.
Should customers be able to pay taxes with credit cards or at other banks?
Absolutely. I think the issue and concern in the past has been the merchant fee and my understanding in talking to other Ohio county treasurers, they all allow taxpayers to pay with a credit card, but the taxpayers have to pay a convenience fee. The credit card companies determine that fee and they charge that right up front, so the taxpayer will know at the time they pay if it’s going to be 2 1/2 percent or 3 1/2 percent. They pay that convenience fee and then they’re able to put their taxes on their credit card. But I think they should be able to do that online or at any bank to make it simple for them. I don’t know all the complications involved in that, but that’s certainly something I would want to do.
Why run for treasurer?
Well, for the past 10 years I’ve been getting involved in different things around the county and I find that I really enjoy being involved within the community. I started out slowly by becoming active in the church and then I got involved with school board. I’m currently president of the East Knox School Board, I’ve been doing that for the past 10 years, and I really enjoy helping people. So, along with my accounting background and my business experience, I think I can bring that to the county level and improve operations in the treasurer’s office. And I would enjoy doing that.
What sets you apart from your opponent?
I think my background. Because I have a business background, not a governmental background, I bring that private sector, corporate America experience to the treasurer’s office. My accounting experience, my treasurer’s experiences, I think I can bring that to offer a fresh look at the way things are done and I think I have the ability to streamline current procedures, so I would like to use that experience to make the office run smoother.
What is the biggest challenge the treasurer faces and why? How will you approach this challenge?
Well, the treasurer only has two primary responsibilities. One is investing the money of the county, and there are a lot of limitations on what type of funds to choose from. The other responsibility is collecting taxes and I think the biggest challenge is the delinquent taxes. There are timing issues as well as cost considerations in being able to collect the delinquent taxes quickly and so I think we really need to look at how we can improve that and collect the taxes, like the delinquent taxes, faster.
The other part of that question would be how you would approach that challenge?
Well, I have been already talking to other county treasurers to find out what things they are doing differently, and like I mentioned before, a lot of those are offering that escrow program. They are finding out that by offering a different way to pay their taxes, people are able to pay them and stay on target and not fall behind. So anything we can do to help people not get delinquent would be a great incentive, a great program to be able to offer. Once they become delinquent, there are some county treasurers who are being a little bit more aggressive, and I don’t know that that’s the answer for our county, but at least for the habitual delinquent taxpayers, I think we should look at what we can do to collect their taxes quicker.
You say other counties are becoming more aggressive in trying to get the perpetual delinquents. What kind of things are they doing that you describe as more aggressive?
Morrow County and Delaware County have been doing a program called, they’ve been using a third party outfit. It’s approved by the state of Ohio. They are selling the delinquent tax certificates. When you do that, the county gets 100 percent of their money up front. And then this third party agency is allowed to collect the taxes and they charge an interest rate to the taxpayer and that’s how they make their money. Now I don’t know that that’s right in every situation to use that as an opportunity, but the treasurer’s responsibility is to collect the taxes and if there’s a way to do it and collect it faster, then I think that needs to be investigated.
Why vote for you?
Why vote for me? I’m a conservative candidate and I think my business background would be an asset to the office. Again, I bring a completely different view, I bring the corporate public sector view to the office. I guess I look at this as an opportunity to serve the community and I feel it would be an honor to be chosen.
Are there any other issues you see as important in this race?
I think we have covered the issues ... I guess just thinking of my business background with the investing of the county money. You’re so limited in the types of funds you can invest in, you’ve got to look for the greatest opportunity and take as much of the cash available that you can and invest it for the longest period of time you can, so it would be very important to understand the cash flow of the county and understand how much money you have available for what time and then synchronize those investments so they mature at the right time so that the money is available when the county needs it.
This is just a great opportunity for me to do something a little bit different by using my accounting skills and my background to help the county and that’s why I’d like to do it.