What is your background and experience?
My name is Shelley Coon and my background and experience are working in the county treasurer’s office the last 11 years. I’m beginning my 12th year. Prior to that I worked in the county auditor’s office for four years. I think having the experiences in both offices is a big asset to being treasurer as both of these offices work hand-in-hand and I know I’m familiar with the workings in the auditor’s office along with knowing how to do the day-to-day in the treasurer’s office. I’ve done it for the last 11 years and I would continue to be hands-on as the treasurer. I think that’s an asset to have someone with that many years of experience leading the office.
Are there any changes you will implement and how will they affect citizens? How will you pay for them?
Well, right now county budgets are tight. We have a good system for our real estate and a good system for our budgetary. We work hand-in-had with the auditor on that as well. Those programs were initiated by the auditor’s office. I would like to, at some point, probably have a treasurer’s site. However, people can find any information out about their property taxes or anything regarding their property on the auditor’s website. So there is access, currently, for information on that.
I would like to make more improvements, but I will not do it at the expense of the taxpayers, not with the budget being tight right now. That’s something I will look at in the future, but where the county stands right now we need to look to maintain our budget or reduce our budget.
Should customers be able to pay taxes with credit cards or at other banks?
Customers can still pay taxes with credit cards. That is offered online at officialpayments.com. They can pay online or over the phone with their credit card. We are not doing it in our office now because halfway through the year we were told we were going to be charged a fee, which we had not done in the past, we had not paid that in the past, but that was changing, we didn’t have a lot of time to figure out what to do. We still wanted to give people the opportunity to use their credit cards, but we did not want to sock an almost 3 percent fee on top of their taxes. But we did leave the option there. If people choose to pay that fee, they can sit at their computer at home and pay their taxes online through Official Payment.
So that’s what the real problem is, that fee that the credit company charges for transactions? You can’t cut 3 percent out of your receipts.
No, the county cannot absorb that fee. If you would know the amount of credit card use, the county can in no way absorb that amount of money and it would have to be passed on to the customer. Now, I’m not saying I may not bring credit cards back some day. Most people that have come in weren’t aware that we took credit cards, and we tell them the reason why we are not taking it is, you’re going to have to pay an almost 3 percent fee, they’re like, well ‘I’m not going to use my credit card anyhow.’ There are still people that are willing to pay that fee and that’s why we give them the option of the Official Payments online, which is actually more convenient than coming to our office. They can sit at their computer and do it at home.
Why run for treasurer?
Well, I guess, most importantly, I like my job, and I have a good working relationship with the people in my office. I mean, obviously it’s a stepping stone for me. I like what I do and I’d like to continue doing that and the opportunity came up when our current treasurer decided she would not run again. And, I’m one of two people that have been in the office for several years, so I feel that I am the most experienced person to step into the job.
What sets you apart from your opponent?
I think that my experience. I think being in there, being familiar with every aspect of the office, being able to walk in on day one in office and do the job. I don’t have to be trained because I’m doing it now, so I need no on-the-job training. I think that’s a big asset.
What is the biggest challenge the treasurer faces and why? How will you approach this challenge?
Our biggest challenge will always be collecting delinquent taxes. Ultimately, it would be nice to sit here and say ... I will tell you I will shoot for a goal of zero percent on delinquent taxes. I think my opponent has said 2 percent. My goal would be zero percent. Reality? You’re always going to have delinquent taxes, because by Ohio Revised Code you may clean up taxes from people that have been delinquent for a while, but then you have others that start and by Ohio Revised Code there is a certain period of time before we can take any action. In the meantime, we send out bills twice a year, we send out delinquent tax bills, our prosecutor’s office sends a letter out, and we actually do 12 tax foreclosures per month, and those have been very successful. We normally collect our delinquent taxes within a 90-day period before foreclosure is filed. That’s why you don’t see a lot of tax foreclosure sales, because out of the 12, most of the time, I would say we average eight to 10 pay off and the case gets dismissed, and then their taxes are current again.
That’s really the best outcome, isn’t it?
Yes. It’s resolved quickly. My opponent talks about third-party collections, but I don’t think in a small county like ours that would work. I think people elect somebody to do a job and I think it’s the responsibility of the treasurer to have local control and talk to people and work with people. I mean, sometimes just working with people on the taxes and setting up a payment plan gets it taken care of. I would want to be able to walk into an office and see a familiar face and say, “How can I take care of my taxes?” rather than get a collection letter in the mail and not have any alternative to go to my elected official and say “What can we do to take care of the problem?”
Why vote for you?
I just believe that I am the best person for the job. I have experience in office, I would have an open door. If you call me on the phone, I can answer your question and I will work hard for the taxpayers of Knox County.
Are there any other issues you see as important in this race?
As far as for treasurer, I think our biggest challenge is delinquent taxes and that is something I’ll work hard at every day. The other responsibility of the treasurer is investments. As we all know, rates are not real good, but we invest wisely and safely.