Union voters Tuesday struck down a measure that would have eliminated the city collector position.
The city proposition received 315 “yes” votes, or 36.3 percent, and 553 “no” votes, or 63.7 percent. If it was approved, the elected position of collector would have been eliminated, and the duties would have been appointed.
“We wanted to clean the books up,” said Mayor Mike Livengood.
The collector position had been stripped of all duties in 2009 and the city contracted with Franklin County for tax collection services.
The salary of the city collector is $1 and there are no benefits for the position. Livengood said the city saved about $40,000 each year that the county collected city taxes.
But City Collector Terry Copeland claims city officials have an ulterior motive.
“If the job is not making any money, or doesn’t have any duties, why do they want it off the ballot?” asked Copeland. “There is something devious going on.”
He added that the outcome of Tuesday’s election showed that voters want to continue to elect a collector.
“I’m happy to see that democracy is alive and well in Union,” he said. “The people have spoken to the mayor and board that they believe this position should be filled with the democratic process.
“Democracy isn’t judged by the dollar,” Copeland added.
He further added that because the duties of the collector would be appointed, there must be some tasks for the collector to perform.
“They’re the ones who thought there are duties for city collector,” he said. “They need to put that into effect. Put the duties in the job description and put it on the ballot.”
There won’t be any changes to how taxes are collected, nor any additional duties for the collector, according to Livengood.
“We have no plans to change anything,” he said. “We like the way it’s been working.”
Livengood said there is no longer the need for a city collector, so the intention is to no longer hold an election for the position.
“It doesn’t seem like it’s necessary,” he said. “We just felt it is more efficient for the community.”
Because the bid to eliminate the position failed, there will be an election for the collector in 2014, but the position will not have any duties and earn $1, officials said.
The county collector’s office began collecting for municipalities in 1998 when it started collecting for Washington.
In 2010, Union contracted with the county to collect its taxes. Each of the cities the county collects for is assessed a charge for the service.
The county charges the city about 2 percent of the total taxes collected. One and one-half percent of the total charge goes to the collector’s fund and one-half percent goes to the assessor’s fund.
That money goes to the general revenue fund and offsets the extra costs in each office.
In addition to the collector and assessor charges, the county collector and clerk each get a $2,000 commission for their services. This is because both are held personally accountable for the accuracy of their offices.
If all Union residents would have paid taxes last year, the county would have taken 2 percent of about $1,900,000, or about $22,000. However not all residents paid the taxes owed.
The benefits and payments to the city’s insurance provider totaled $60,398 for the city collector prior to contracting with Franklin County.
Another benefit to cities, officials said, is that the county is better able to collect on delinquent bills.