What do you do for a living?
I’m the county tax collector.
How would you describe what you do?
My job is to collect ad valorem taxes on real estate and personal property. And ad valorem means a percentage of a value. The value comes from the assessor. She gives me a value, I put the millage rate against it, and I collect that amount on real estate and on personal property and on business.
What does your work entail?
I’m responsible for this office and two satellites offices. My job entails personnel issues, time issues, I also go to associational meetings. Right now, we’re putting in a new computer software system which is taking up a whole lot of our time.
[the misconception is] that we’re a little bit ruthless…we’re not necessarily ruthless, we want to call it consistent. I treat everybody alike: rich, poor, whatever. I’m here to serve the people of this county…I just do my job here. I come to work and go home like everybody else.
My number one job is to make sure that we’re collecting taxes and collecting the right amount, and then we disburse it. I have to make sure the taxes were collected at the correct millage rate for the right schools, and for each school district, and the city and county. Eighty percent of the funds goes to schools, ten percent goes to cities, and about ten percent goes to the counties.
How did you get started?
I began on the quorum court. I was on the quorum court for 8 years when this job kind of opened and I had to make a decision.
The quorum court was taking so much of my time I had to either get in or get out of politics. I enjoyed county government, and this job came open, so I ran for the position and got it 6-1/2 years ago.
What do you like about what you do?
I like working with county government. It is really unique, you meet a lot of statewide officials, we all do the same things because state government is just a collection of what the county government does. It’s really unique. I guess one of my big jobs is you deal with the odd things that come along, and it’s these problems that come along that challenge you most. We deal with bankruptcies and we deal with delinquent people that won’t pay. We also use the county attorney. He will file liens against these people, and we can have personal property sales to get the taxes paid. We can also sell businesses if someone is delinquent, but everyone usually pays so we haven’t had any real sales yet.
What do you dislike about being a tax collector?
Sometimes you find people with hardship cases, like poor little ladies on fixed incomes come in and say, My taxes have went up. How am I going to pay for it? . You hate to hear these stories and they’re heart-wrenching a lot of times. You’ll hear, My husband died and I didn’t know if the land is going to be sold at auction, and they’re trying to come up with money and ask Can I please just wait?. And I’m in a position where I have to work by the law. Which I’m glad, I’m kind of glad that I got a law that I have to work with and that’s the final determining factor. So, even though my heart goes out to these people, and it tears you up sometimes, but you have to go ahead and send those to the cases to the State. We do work with businesses who can’t pay and we will set up a payment plan for them. And as they pay off their delinquents and catch up and are current, we will give them their clearance. And they may not be fully paid up, but as long as we’ve set up an agreement, which is a signed notarized agreement and they make these payments, then we’d work with them and then they’d catch up over a period of hopefully around one year. Some of them may have to go beyond that. But we try and work with people to get paid up.
How do you make money/or how are you compensated?
I’m on a salary.
How much money do you make as a tax collector?
It is now somewhere in the neighborhood of 70,000 a year.
What education or skills are needed to do this?
It doesn’t require necessarily a college education. I don’t have a college education, but I had a background in business when I went into the quorum court. To do it nowadays you really just need some computer skills.
What is most challenging about what you do?
The challenging thing about this job is trying to get information from the assessor and getting all the information the right time of the year. There’s always hold ups, there’s always lawsuits, there’s always things that have be taken care of quickly. Because we get real busy at certain times in the year.
What is most rewarding?
To me it’s very rewarding that we can handle so many people that will pay the last week of the year, and most people are coming in here later and later, closer to the last day to pay October 10th. So the fact that I’m responsible for having a system and personnel that can handle that high volume is very rewarding.
What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
You need to know Excel, Word, and Access, and just be familiar with your computer in general. You need to really work in some area of bookkeeping or accounting, because that’s what we are, bookkeepers for the county. We keep records. We collect money. It would be good to either work in the office or work in county government. It also helps having experience dealing with personnel issues. I’m constantly having to hire and replace people, so knowing how to hire good people is very important.
How much time off do you get/take?
I’ve seminars and schools that I’m constantly attending, but as far as personal time it’s usually around two weeks per year.
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
That we’re a little bit ruthless. But we’re not necessarily ruthless, we want to call it consistent. I treat everybody alike: rich, poor, whatever. I’m here to serve the people of this county. And some people are a little bit, you know, I got to go to see the tax collector. I go to church and he’s the mean old tax collector, whatever. It’s kind of a misconception and I just do my job here. I come to work and go home like everybody else.
What are your goals/dreams for the future?
My goal is very simple. I’m right now putting in a new software system. I’m trying to get everything on the computer. My goals would be that you can go online and see the delinquent taxes that’s another way of encouraging people to pay delinquent taxes, be putting their names online. I think I’m looking for being here another six, eight years, and then retire.