Laura Danekas, Treasurer
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The county treasurer holds a key position of public trust in the financial affairs of local government. Acting as the "bank" for the county, school districts, fire districts, water districts and other units of local government, the treasurer's office receipts, disburses, invests and accounts for the funds of each of these entities. In addition, the treasurer is charged with the collection of various taxes that benefit a wide range of governmental units.
Following are the primary duties of the Treasurer's Office:
- Receipt of funds
As the depository for all funds, fees collected by other county offices as well as those collected by the various districts, are forwarded to the treasurer for custody. State and federal monies allocated to local governments are transmitted to the treasurer and are deposited to the proper funds in accordance with current statutes. Monthly reports are prepared to show the accounting transactions by fund for each unit of government.
Property taxes are a major source of revenue to local governments. Billed by the county treasurer, these taxes are distributed upon collection to the various state, school, county, city and district funds as levies.
The county treasurer also bills and collects special assessments authorized by the voters to fund improvements or to provide a specific service to property owners within a localized district.
In addition, the county treasurer acts as agent for the Washington State Department of Revenue to administer and collect the real estate excise tax on the conveyance of real property. These taxes, which help fund the state public school system and local government capital improvements, are paid by the seller as a percentage of the sale price.
- Collection of Taxes
Upon receipt of the tax rolls from the county assessor, the treasurer forwards to all property owners statements of real and personal property taxes due. These taxes are payable on or after February 15 of each year with the full tax due by April 30. If the amount payable is over $50.00, one-half may be paid on or before April 30, with the second half due on or before October 31.
Washington State law requires interest to be charged on delinquent taxes at the rate of 12% per annum, plus penalties of up to 11%. Tough collection provisions in the law direct the treasurer to seize and sell personal property when those taxes become delinquent. The statutes governing real property require the treasurer to commence foreclosure action when those taxes are delinquent for three years. To process this foreclosure action the treasurer prepares the necessary legal documents, publishes a legal notice and notifies the property owner of the pending foreclosure. If the taxes remain unpaid, a public auction is conducted and the property is sold to satisfy the outstanding tax lien.
- Disbursement of Funds
The treasurer redeems all school, county and district warrants from monies available in the fund upon which they were drawn. If a fund has insufficient monies, each warrant is registered and interest charges begin to accrue. Then as monies become available, those warrants are called for redemption in the order of their issuance.
- Investment of Funds
Units of local government and fund managers provide written authorization for the county treasurer to invest funds not required for immediate expenditure. The treasurer then places funds in legally authorized investments (such as U.S. government securities, certificates of deposit, and bankers acceptances) for the benefit of the specific fund. In addition, short-term and/or overnight investments such as repurchase agreements or deposits in the Local Government Investment Pool (operated by the State Treasurer) are entered into as provided by statute. These investments are authorized by the county finance committee which consists of the county treasurer, the county auditor and the chair of the county legislative authority.
- Miscellaneous Duties
Bond sales authorized by the county and school or other local districts are conducted by the treasurer. A detailed record is kept of every bond and an entry on the bond register shows each bond and coupon payment.
The treasurer also conducts the sale of surplus items such as sheriff's cars and county road equipment, at public auction. In addition, any unclaimed money or property found upon a deceased person is delivered to the treasurer by the coroner for safekeeping.
The duties of the county treasurer are many and varied, each requiring the efficient and reliable handling of public funds. With responsibilities extending beyond the scope of county operations, the county treasurer plays a key fiduciary role in the operation of local government.