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Ashtabula County Treasurer

Microsoft Word - 2020 Election Voter Guide Info Packet Final.docx4 year term Salary for 2021: $75,749Responsibilities: To collect taxes in the county and its subdivisions, disburse expenditures, and invest the county's funds.

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    Angie Maki Cliff

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    Dawn M. Cragon

Biographical Information

What is the biggest challenge in Ashtabula County and how would you address it?

Why are you running for this position?

How will you work with people having difficulty paying their taxes to avoid negative consequences for them?

How would you increase the efficiency of this office?

Education Respiratory Therapy, Paramedic
Training and Experience 10 + Years Business Owner/Chief Financial Officer, 15+ Years Customer Service, AIPB, Bookkeeping
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The biggest challenge facing Ashtabula County that the Treasurer’s office has a direct contribution, would be foreclosures and blighted homes. Under Ohio law, County Treasurers have the option to sell delinquent tax certificates to private companies. Companies buying tax lien certificates can charge up to 18% interest, which is crushing to anyone already under financial burden. We have a choice, we do not have to do business with a predatory company that charges the maximum allowable 18% interest, exacerbating the foreclosure crisis, however, the current Treasurer chose this option. Not only does this make it very hard for anyone to get out from under that lien, it often results in a revenue-now, short-term gain with many abandoned properties and a damaged tax base. As Treasurer, I would hold the tax liens in-office at a more digestible interest rate. This takes the power from private investors, keeps the money in our community and ensures the holder of the tax lien is accountable.
We need more people from the private sector in the public sector. Too often we get career politicians or lifelong bureaucrats in charge of our offices who lose focus of their main priority, which is making sure the office is serving the citizens. They have no stake in the game, and lose track of the customer service angle which is the most important one for any office, public or private. As a local business owner and Chief Financial Officer, I not only have the necessary qualifications and experience for this position, I feel can correct the current atmosphere inside our Treasurer’s Office and get it moving forward with a customer service mindset: serving the public and always trying to find ways to do so better.
We have existing payment plans, the problem is many people do not know about them, or only find out after they are already delinquent. So, the first step is education and improved customer service. Regular business hours for the Ashtabula County Treasurer's office are 8am-12pm, that needs to change so that taxpayers can get a hold of us to find out what their options are. We also need to be more pro-active in informing people about their options and one example I’d like to pursue is making use of social media in the office to put out posts and videos discussing their options and just making the office feel more approachable. Secondly, I would end the current practice of selling tax lien certificates to aggressive companies that seek only to turn a profit from the misfortunes of Ashtabula residents. The consequences of tax certificate sales are that homeowners are injured, tax base is injured and long-term costs to the community become far more expensive than the short term benefit.
The key to optimizing anything is knowing where to focus to increase efficiency. There are three areas I plan to focus on: 1) Extending the hours the office is available to accept payments and serve the public, as well as the options available for payment, such a credit cards 2) Implementing system automations so that notifications may be sent to email or phone numbers when an account is due or past due, 3) Responding timely and being available to the requests and needs of other departments when collecting funds for the county. I believe this will enable us to collect taxes fairly and efficiently, make the office user-friendly and more responsive to the taxpayer’s needs while ensuring the tax collection system is easily understood, transparent, and has a tone that make people feel comfortable reaching out to us for questions.
Education Bachelor of Business Administration from Kent State University, Master of Business Administration from Lake Erie College.
Training and Experience County Treasurer since September 2009. Prior experience in management, collections and investments for a real estate investment firm while also managing the books, payroll and marketing for two small family-owned businesses for over 15 years.
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Ashtabula County faces many challenges, including mental health, drug addiction and the COVID-19 pandemic. Although I participate in numerous discussions to address these issues, the County Treasurer is an administrative position and does not have a role in addressing these challenges or creating public policy. One issue our County faced which I was able to address as County Treasurer was that of vacant homes decreasing the safety and value of our communities. Blighted and vacant homes decrease neighborhood safety and property values. Recognizing this, I established the County Land Bank which was awarded $4.3 million to demolish vacant houses and help begin to turn our neighborhoods around. Many of these houses were a product of the 2009 foreclosure crisis and were a burden on our resources. The land bank was able to remove these structures and repurpose the land to tax-paying property owners.
I believe the taxpayers of Ashtabula County deserve a good steward of their tax dollars; one who operates with their interest and that of the county’s well-being as the first priority. I have made significant improvements to the office and the services offered to the public since my first term. My education and work history gave me the knowledge and experience to perform the investment and collection duties immediately upon taking office without the learning curve of an inexperienced investor or collector. This saves our County $50,000 - $150,000 per year by not contracting an outside investor to manage the county’s funds. I have the education and experience to quickly respond to the ever-changing economic climate we’ve experienced due to recessions and the pandemic, which is of utmost importance in this position. I am running for re-election because I am confident I can continue to lead the office in a positive direction despite economic uncertainty.
Immediately upon taking office during the 2009 housing and foreclosure crisis, I recognized the need for homeowner assistance. Within my first three months, I created a delinquent payment plan program to offer flexible payments. The new program offered longer terms and regular monthly payments, as well as electronic options for payment ease and regularity. I have dedicated one full time staff member to our payment plans, and I assist with this function. Knowing the burden semi-annual tax bills can place on families, I have also improved the escrow program which allows for smaller monthly payments, making it easier for budgeting and reducing delinquencies. These measures have prepared our office to handle any issues a taxpayer might have going forward in the future, including avoiding delinquency and foreclosure.
Since taking office, staffing decreased from 6 full time and 1 part time employees to 4 full time employees, which decreased office expenses while still performing all duties of the Treasurer’s office. Collections have continued to increase, and my office recorded the largest tax collection on record in both dollars and in proportion to the amount billed in 2020, despite the pandemic. Additionally, we currently have the lowest tax delinquency on record, and are on track to reduce the delinquency even further by year’s end. Investments have returned income beyond the market expectations with the highest earnings in 2019. My staff and I are always looking for ways to improve and have recently realigned staff duties so that everyone is cross-trained in the event of an absence so that efficiencies are not lost or set aside.