The Montgomery County Board of Supervisors will take the first steps in learning how to remove the treasurer and the commissioner of revenue as elected officials at Monday night’s meeting.
Chairman Chris Tuck brought up the idea of consolidating the offices and putting them under the county’s purview at a regular meeting in early September.
Tuck reiterated Thursday that he decided to bring up the matter because he was interested in potential cost-saving benefits, making the offices more efficient and wanting the employees to have the same rights as regular county employees.
He said that constitutional officers have the power to fire employees for almost anything, even something a simple as “not liking someone.”
Tuck said Erica Williams, the Montgomery County Clerk of Courts, firing almost half of her staff after being reelected in 2016, for what many have said where political reasons not related to job performance, was not the main reason employee rights were on his mind, but it did play a part.
“I have heard different people say things like ‘If this person gets elected, am I going to have a job’,” he said. “I just believe that if someone is doing their job well, they shouldn’t have to worry about getting fired.”
Tuck said that he has not made up his mind about anything yet and is still in the information-gathering stage, which begins Monday when Dr. Karen Hult from the School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech will speak to the board about the history of the treasurer and commissioner of revenue positions in Virginia.
Also slated for Monday is a briefing from County Attorney Marty McMahon explaining how the county would proceed if the supervisors decided to pursue the issue.
Tuck said that there will be other information-gathering opportunities at both November meetings, and that the supervisors would likely not decide on how to proceed until sometime in 2018 when new supervisors Steve Fijalkowski (District C) and Sara Bohn (District A) begin their terms.
Commissioner of Revenue Helen Royal and Treasurer Richard Shelton each said that they are vehemently against the idea of making the positions appointive, or of consolidating the offices.
Royal said that the main function of her office is to assess the values of properties in the county for tax purposes and the treasurer’s office is responsible for collecting those taxes.
“Would you really want someone who is assessing your taxes collecting them as well?” she said.
Shelton echoed Royal’s sentiment that the offices should remain separate in order to avoid any conflict of interest.
“Why fix something that isn’t broken?” he said. “It’s a checks and balances system. It could open up opportunities for people to give favorable adjustments to friends.”
Both Shelton and Royal have both said that they are not seeking another term when they are up for reelection in 2019, although Royal said that she would consider running again if that’s what it took to keep her office as it is now.
“I don’t think Tuck should think I’m going to fire my employees just because someone else did,” she said.
Royal’s office also oversees tax relief programs for seniors and permanently disabled citizens, land use and the car-tax rebate and the filing of Virginia State income tax returns.
The treasurer’s office is responsible for collecting real estate taxes, personal property taxes, motor vehicle license fees and dog licenses.
Shelton’s office has 12 employees and a $997,644 budget. The county pays $799,584 of that, with state funds covering the rest. His salary is $111,243.
Royal’s office has 14 employees with a $983,307 budget. The county pays $781,599 of that, while state funds covering the rest. Her salary is $104,160.
Monday’s meeting is at 7 p.m. in the Montgomery County Government Center (755 Roanoke St., Christiansburg).