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County looks at combining auditor/treasurer positions

Posted 3/24/15 (Tue)

By Amy Robinson
Farmer Staff Writer

What started out with the surprise resignation of Cheryl Grantier, as the McKenzie County Treasurer in early December, has led to the county commission directing the State’s Attorney to draft a resolution that would ultimately combine the auditor and treasurer positions into one elected position for McKenzie County.
Previously, those two positions were voted on by the public, and historically, ones that were kept separate for a system of checks and balances.
The preliminary resolution was adopted at the Board of County Commissioners meeting on March 3. From there, two public hearings were set, the first for March 17, and the second set for April 7.
“Once the preliminary resolution is adopted, it has to be published for two weeks,” said Jake Rodenbiker, McKenzie County State’s Attorney. “From the time the preliminary resolution is adopted until a final resolution can be adopted, there has to be at least 30 days in-between, which would put the effective date to be a May 1 time frame.”
Because the public hearings can be held at a commissioner’s meeting, county residents are invited to attend the last public hearing on April 7, at 1 p.m. in the courthouse. This is an opportunity for people to come and discuss and/or ask questions regarding the resolution.
“We are still in the process,” says Linda Svihovec, McKenzie County auditor and acting treasurer. “We’ve already held one of two public hearings. The first one was last Tuesday, March 17, and the next one will be at the regularly scheduled April 7 meeting at 1 p.m. So, we’ll see what happens on the 7th. There was no one at the last meeting who spoke in favor or opposed the combination.”
According to Svihovec, it is the board’s intention, unless there is some opposition, to move forward with the process and have the final resolution, plan, and implementation before May 1.
“That’s the plan,” says Svihovec, “but it all hinges on if people show up April 7, and have other ideas to change the board’s mind.”
According to the North Dakota Association of Counties (NDACo), auditors are responsible for a broad range of administrative duties. But their primary duties are chief financial officer, elections officer, and secretary to the county commission.
And according to the NDACo, the Treasurer’s Office is typically used by taxpayers, state agencies, lending institutions, and realty companies, providing easy access to tax and real estate records throughout the year to anyone who requests that information. Treasurers are responsible for keeping track of all property taxes, including delinquency and foreclosures, and to act as accountant, financial manager, and investor for the county.
After careful consideration and analysis of both offices, the McKenzie County Board of Commissioners determined that such a combination of the two offices would improve the effectiveness and efficiency of both offices without diminishing the general responsibility of county government to perform any function or provide any service that is required by law to be performed or provided.
And if a final resolution is adopted, effective May 1, 2015, the offices of county auditor and treasurer will be combined, and the auditor will assume all statutory duties of the treasurer.
According to the resolution, the effectiveness of the combined offices will be improved through centralized management and oversight. The duties assigned both offices will be carried out in a manner consistent with law, but without the duplication or disagreement as may occasionally arise between two independently-elected officials. And the combined office will continue to be an elected position.
“By retaining this combined office as an elective position, the people of McKenzie County are assured their customary safeguard of a ballot to ensure effective and efficient service to the public,” concludes the preliminary resolution.