Hintz: VC Treasurer/Tax Collector tells Rotarians of money matters
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula News
Published: February 20, 2013
When Fire Chief Rick Araiza introduced Ventura County Treasurer/Tax Collector Steven Hintz as the featured speaker at a recent Rotary Club meeting, Araiza said the former judge “will tell us a little about where our taxes are going....”
“... Straight to hell,” intoned Hintz, who was first elected to the position in November 2010.
As one of the county’s seven elected officials, Hintz’s office is in charge of tracking and collecting billions of dollars in unsecured and secured property taxes. One aspect of the position Hintz said he did not expect is overseeing a fund valued at about $7 billion in bond and other proceeds as well as providing banking services to most county cities, although not Santa Paula. There is a $2 billion investment pool, and Hintz said the approximately 250 diverse clients also include school districts “to Piru Cemetery. “
When Hintz ran for the office he initially had six opponents, “and none of us knew we’d be running a bank” if elected, especially a bank that Hintz said brought him surprise “at its magnitude.”
The County Treasurer/Tax Collector’s office employs about 35 employees, almost all specialists in their respective fields. Hintz said the average salary is “about $40,000 a year,” lower than the $43,000 average paid to county employees overall, and it is also “a great place to work.” Hintz is also on the board of the county’s at times controversial retirement fund.
A judge for 27 years, Hintz said he decided to run for the office because “It was time to try something else... but when I ran I thought there would be one election, not two” after the race he felt would be decided with a majority vote in the primary actually advanced to the election.
Hintz admitted the amounts of money flowing from and through various accounts causes him to “still suffer occasionally from sticker shock.”
Property tax collection almost takes care of itself, with 98 percent of property owners voluntarily making payments. The record of compliance for the owners of the approximately 250,000 parcels gives Ventura County bragging rights as one of the highest voluntary pay rates in the state. And the other two percent “all pay within five years,” the cutoff point where the county can proceed with foreclosure.
Even at the height of the real estate crisis, auctions were rare and the rate is only about 20 sales a year, “about 100th of 1 percent,” said Hintz. “Our office is a very good collection agency.”
And although Hintz noted he has no direct control over the county’s budget, he is confident “Ventura County will survive even when the ship of state - the Titanic - goes down.”
After some questions from Rotarians, including one that touched on municipal scandals such as Bell, Hintz said he finds Santa Paula an interesting - and very interested - town. “And as long as you stay interested,” said Hintz, “you’ll make sure it’s on the right track.”