Future of City Collector Job Up to Voters - The Missourian: Local News

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Future of City Collector Job Up to Voters

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Posted: Wednesday, April 2, 2014 7:00 am

St. Clair’s collector always has been elected to the position. On Tuesday, voters within the city limits will decide whether that will remain the status quo or whether the individual in the job will be appointed.

In December, the board of aldermen unanimously agreed to place the question on the April 8 municipal election ballot after a personnel committee — led by Ward 1 Alderman Nathan Tate — made the recommendation.

The city collector, who currently is Tiffany Burton, is responsible for the billings and collections of all the service debts owed to the municipality, including water, sewer and refuse billings, business licenses and animal registration tags.

Burton said the city currently has about 1,600 water, sewer and trash customers.

“Basically, the position entails taking in all the receivables that come into city hall,” she said.

Burton filed to serve the remaining two years of former collector Lynne Huff’s elected term. She was the only individual who filled out the necessary paperwork, so her name alone will be on Tuesday’s ballot. If the ballot question passes, an individual will be appointed beginning in 2016.

Huff was elected to a sixth term in April 2012 but retired early last year after a 20-year career. Burton was appointed to replace her.

In making the recommendation to his fellow aldermen last year, Tate said over the years, the responsibilities of the city collector have lessened.

“Nearly half of the collector’s job now is done by the county,” he said.

The city collector will make $40,726.40 this year, according to the 2014 budget approved by the aldermen in December. Pay currently is determined through ordinance.

Tate has said that if the job changes to being an appointed one, the salary could be lowered to save the city money.

The ballot question will ask: “Shall the position of collector for the city of St. Clair, Missouri, become an appointed position at the expiration of the current term of office?”

Voters simply will check “yes” or “no.”

Mayor in Favor

Mayor Ron Blum said he believes making the collector an appointed position would be in the best interests of the city and its taxpayers.

“You don’t always get qualified resumes through the election process,” he said. “Anyone can file for any elected position, whether they are qualified or not. If you can appoint an individual to a position, you can make sure that person is qualified.

“I think doing it this way (appointed) allows the city to operate more efficiently and effectively.”

The mayor said that as technology continues to develop and expand and computer software programs get developed, jobs such as a city collector require more specified expertise.

“This position needs someone who understands how our system works,” he said. “And, it’s beneficial to not have to worry about getting someone different in there every four years who will have to learn and train before they completely know how to do things.

“All governments need to look at their structure and figure out ways to operate as effectively and efficiently as they can, and we think this is one way to make ours that way.”

Burton will not publicly say which side of the fence she is on regarding the ballot question. However, she did say she sees both sides.

“I see advantages both ways,” she told The Missourian. “I know there are people who want to keep it their choice. But, I also understand where the city is coming from and why it being appointed makes sense.”

No matter which way the vote goes, Burton hopes people make informed decisions.

“People need to think about this,” she said. “If they decide to make it appointed, it won’t change back. The decision will stay. When it’s done, it’s done.

“People just need to make what they think is the correct choice,” she said. “I just have to hope the right choice is made for everyone in this city.”

Blum encourages all St. Clair residents to vote on the issue so their opinion is heard.

“We all need to get out and vote,” he said.

The issue has been on the ballot in the past, but it has failed.

According to the city’s ordinance language, Missouri state statute allows a municipality to decide whether the collector position is elected or appointed through a ballot issue.

/local_news