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With the March 2020 Election fast approaching, we sat down with current Treasurer-Tax Collector James Hudak to explain what his office does for Napa County.
The Treasurer-Tax Collector is an elected office with a term of four years. Hudak was appointed by the Board of Supervisors in January 2019 to fill out the term of former Treasurer-Tax Collector Tamie Frasier, who retired in November 2018.
Hudak, who is not seeking election in March, has brought decades of experience in public and private sector finance to the Office of Treasurer-Tax Collector. He agreed to do a Q&A to help voters understand the duties of the Treasurer-Tax Collector before the March Election.
Q: What do you do as the Treasurer-Tax Collector for Napa County?
A: We have several functions, but the one people know best is as the Tax Collector. We collect the taxes for both secured and unsecured property that people own in the county. We also collect for other entities/special districts such as the Napa County Airport, Napa Vallejo Waste, City of American Canyon Fire, Napa County Retirees and other County departments.
Q: What’s the difference between secured and unsecured property?
A: Secured property are things like homes and commercial property—things that can’t move. Unsecured property are things that can be moved, like boats, airplanes, businesses, possessory interest, and others.
Q: How much tax are we talking?
A: The current property tax roll is about $490 million. It’s a significant amount of money. We issue all the property tax bills that the public receives.
Q: How are these taxes paid?
A: The Treasurer-Tax Collectors office is located at 1195 Third St., Suite 108, Napa, CA 94559-3050. There are three options to pay your tax bills:
Q: Are there penalties if people are late with their payments?
A: State law mandates that if the first installment is not paid by 5 p.m. on Dec. 10 of each year, or the second installment by 5 p.m. on April 10, there is an automatic 10% penalty on each installment and on the second installment an additional $10 cost.
Q: Can that penalty be waived?
A: My discretion is constrained by the law. But there are a few reasons I can accept in order to provide exemptions, such as if someone is serving in the military overseas, or if someone has been hospitalized.
Q: Do people get your office mixed up with other County offices?
A: One misconception people have is that the Treasurer-Tax Collector sets the amount of the property taxes people owe. We don’t make that determination. That’s done by the Assessor’s Office who sets the value of the property, and the Auditor sets the tax rate. Both are completely separate elected offices.
Another misconception is people think the property taxes we collect, the revenues, are only for County government. That’s not the case. We collect property taxes for the cities, school districts, and other public entities that receive property tax revenues.
Also, we don’t decide how much property tax each entity gets. The Auditor-Controller’s Office handles the distribution of those funds.
Q: Are there any other important functions you handle?
A: As Treasurer I invest some property tax revenues to generate more money for government programs and services. I invest not only the County’s property tax revenues, but also on behalf of local school districts, Napa Valley College, Napa Sanitation District, and other entities. Each one receives interest from the investments based on their average daily balance within our office.
Our office operates as the bank for the County. All departments deposit their cash/checks, ACH’s [Automatic Clearing House] and incoming wires daily. Once we’ve reconciled the deposits, we process the bank deposits via upload to the bank. We initiate all outgoing wires upon receipt of the wire instructions from departments. Wire requests are filtered through the Auditor’s office before coming to the Treasury for processing.
Q: How much investing do you handle?
A: The investment portfolio currently is worth about $830 million.
Q: Can you invest the money in anything?
A: No. State law and county rules dictates how the Treasurer-Tax Collector can invest money. Only up to 30% of the money can be invested in corporate bonds, but they have to be “A” rated or better. The rest of the money can go into U.S. Treasury Bonds or other U.S. government bonds, such as the Federal Home Loan Bank and others.
I can buy bonds that have up to a 5-year maturity, but nothing longer than that. I am obligated under the law to make sure the investments have a low risk of failure. Safety comes first, then after that I can factor in things like liquidity and yield.
Q: Do you make investment decisions entirely on your own?
A: I use six different brokers to get a range of options before investing. That way I get the best deal for the County or any other public entity I’m investing for.
Q: How do people know if all the money your office handles is accounted for?
A: Our operations are audited by the Auditor-Controller’s Office monthly, quarterly or at any given time. We also have a Treasury oversight committee that sees our investment activity.