STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Under new leadership since the start of the year, the Routt County Treasurer’s Office has recorded sweeping improvements in tax collection and investment revenue.
Treasurer Lane Iacovetto, who took office in January, said the improvements will help local tax authorities like schools and fire districts get the allocated funding they need to operate. The spike in investment income, the highest in at least five years, will benefit county programs and operations.
The improvements come as good news to the Treasurer’s Office after Iacovetto’s predecessor, Brita Horn, stained its public reputation over several disputes and instances of mishandling the county’s finances. In 2018, for example, Horn spent more than $100,000 on legal services to an outside law firm, most of which had to be paid for with taxpayers’ money. She recruited the law firm to help her respond to allegations in 2018 that she was improperly working on her state treasurer’s campaign from her office, among other matters.
When Iacovetto took office, she could sense a palpable distrust among county residents and negativity toward the Treasurer’s Office.
“I think the citizens had lost faith in the accuracy of the office and rightly so,” she said.
Iacovetto has therefore made accuracy and timeliness top priorities during her first year in office.
Seven months after the national deadline to submit taxes, Iacovetto’s office has recorded 98.7% compliance with tax collection, according to her records. Her office collected a total of $65,996,330 in taxes from the 2018 tax year.
Each year, some people inevitably do not pay all of the taxes they owe, Iacovetto said. Usually it is an unintentional mistake.
“They either don’t know or forget,” she said.
In the past, the Treasurer’s Office was limited in how it could reach out to people and notify them of the taxes they owe. Sending letters in the mail and advertising in the newspaper were the main options, according to Iacovetto, but they often failed to get compliance. This year, she employed more modern technology, including calling and emailing delinquent taxpayers. Iacovetto even used Facebook occasionally to track people down.
“You can find somebody in an instant, and it’s free,” she said.
Each year, the Treasurer’s Office also has some leftover funds after distributing taxes to area schools, fire districts, museums and other tax authorities. Iacovetto invests those funds to raise revenue for the county.
So far this year, the office has generated $261,984.95 more in interest income for the county. That marks a 56% increase compared to the amount generated in 2018 and more than the Treasurer’s Office has generated since at least 2015.
Most of that money will go toward the county’s general budget, according to Iacovetto, which the Routt County Board of Commissioners uses to fund various, often essential programs and operations ranging from road maintenance to mental health services.
Speaking of investments, the public has until Thursday to participate in the county’s annual tax lien sale. Investors pay the delinquent taxes that residents owe on their property and in exchange receive interest on the tax amount. If the property owner has not paid the owed taxes in three years, the investor may be able to take over the property.
Iacovetto said most locals do not participate in the sale because many do not know enough about tax liens to feel comfortable investing. Though property values are high in Routt County, many investors believe it is a relatively safe investment.
It is important to know there is an element of risk involved in the purchase of tax liens. It is up to investors conduct their own investigation to reduce the possibility of loss of interest.
“You are guaranteed something at the end of the investment,” she said. “Either you get your money back with interest or you can apply for a deed on the property.”
County employees, elected officials and their immediate family members are not allowed to participate in the tax lien sale.
Those interested in registering for the sale can do so on the county’s website: http://co-routtcounty.civicplus.com/214/Tax-Lien-Sale-Information.
Looking to the future, Iacovetto plans to implement more automated processes at the Treasurer’s Office to make operations more efficient. These include automated tax payment processing, tax authority disbursements and banking transactions, according to Iacovetto.
Routt County Commissioner Beth Melton, who took office the same month as Iacovetto, is pleased with the changes at the Treasurer’s Office.
“She has been incredibly efficient at fixing problems she has seen,” Melton said.