Should treasurers be elected?

Brent Finnegan -- October 28th, 2008

Here’s another part of our Q&A series with City Treasurer candidates:

At least one candidate running for City Council has discussed the possibility of changing the office of treasurer from an elected position to one that serves under the authority of City Council. Is that a good or bad idea?

Bill Ney: It is a bad idea. The constitutional offices were established to offer the community a system of “Checks & Balances”. The Commissioner of Revenue sets the tax appraisal value of the property. The City Council sets the tax rate and the City Treasurer collects all fees, manage and protect all accounts, and oversees all expenditures.

With the elimination of these offices, one person would be responsible for all these activities. The only would come from the City Manager and the City Council. With the current system, we have three separate offices all elected by the citizens of Harrisonburg providing their services. The Financial Office of Harrisonburg could replaced after each City Council election if three council members make that decision. It is time to have more open government and less government “Behind Closed Doors”.
The final and main reason to not consider this proposal is that the Commonwealth of Virginia pays over 80% of the salaries of the Treasurer and Commissioner of Revenue and their staffs. That sum would cost Harrisonburg about $4000,000.00 per year.
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Penny Paul Imeson: The city voters will be the ones to decide by referendum whether they want to eliminate elections for the Treasurer and Commissioner of Revenue. At present, City Council, the Treasurer and the Commissioner of Revenue – all three independent of each other – provide checks and balances for the handling of taxation.

This change may have been suggested because of the recent malfeasance in the Treasurer’s office, but the independence of the office is what limited the corruption. I remain unconvinced that efficiencies would result from such a change. Certainly, a directly elected official is more accountable to the people than another layer of government in the Finance department.

Whatever the voters decide, my immediate goal is restoring the integrity of the office and leading its modernization.

Virginia has enjoyed good government by following its constitution. I see no reason to change it.
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Jeff Shafer: I think it would be a bad idea for three reasons. First, I think it’s a good idea to keep the power of the vote in our taxpayers’ hands. For me, personally, I feel a greater sense of responsibility and accountability knowing that the 40,000+ citizens of Harrisonburg are my boss. It motivates me to treat each citizen equally, fairly, and consistently.

Secondly, I like the checks and balances it creates. The Treasurer and Commissioner of the Revenue should be independent of the governing body. As treasurer, I feel it is my duty to find the balance between what is best for the taxpayer, and what is best for the city, while staying within the bounds of the code that I took an oath to follow. The Commissioner assesses the tax, the Treasurer collects and safeguards the funds, the Finance Department handles all the accounting, and City Council sets the tax rate and gives us the City Code to follow.

Thirdly, an elected official must reside in the locality he or she serves. That is important to me because all decisions made and practices implemented will affect that official just like it does everyone else.
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Three candidates are running for City Treasurer. We’ll post more questions and answers this week.

4 Responses to “Should treasurers be elected?”

  1. Justin says:

    No one wants to erase the position, just change how it’s filled. Ney didn’t even answer the question.

    Checks and balances have nothing to do with being a elected position.

    If “the Treasurer collects and safeguards the funds”, I don’t see how whether your a Democrat or Republican can change the way your do that.

    In fact, being hired on your rêsumê alone would suggest that your focusing on the primary goals of your job and not have any underlying political motives at all.

    Personally, I believe that at least Treasurer, Clerk of Court and Commissioner of Revenue should all be rêsumê filled jobs. Politics doesn’t belong in these jobs.

  2. blondiesez says:

    amen.

  3. Emmy says:

    Ditto that amen.

  4. Christa says:

    I have said that all along also.

Reader Tweets

Latest Flickr photos in the hburgnews Flickr pool
Announcements & Press Releases
  • Friendly City Grand Opening Set for July 9

    Friendly City Food Co-Op, Harrisonburg’s consumer-owned grocery, invites the community to come see its new destination for natural, organic and locally-produced products at the store’s grand opening 11 a.m.-5 p.m. July 9 at 150 East Wolfe Street.

  • Friendly City Becomes Member of National Cooperative Grocers Association

    HARRISONBURG, VA — Friendly City Food Co-op, slated to open this month in Harrisonburg, Va., has become the newest member of the National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA), a business services cooperative serving 120 consumer-owned food co-ops nationwide.

  • Harrisonburg Recognized as a Bike Friendly Community

    May 2: Harrisonburg was honored when the League of American Bicyclists announced the latest round of Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC) designations over the weekend to kick off May as National Bike Month.