Editor’s note: this article on the assessor’s office race was cut off in the print edition of the paper. The full article appears below:
The primary election is only a few days away and in the races for Power County offices only one is contested. That race is for the position of county assessor. On the Republican side only one candidate has declared the intention to seek the office in November. That candidate is Jefferson Hunt.
The primary race for assessor is on the Democrat side with Power County Assessor employees Donna Thornton and Mary Annen vying for the chance to face Hunt.
Both candidates responded to five questions about their vision for the office of assessor.
What do you see as the primary function of the assessor’s office?
Thornton: The primary function of the assessor’s office is collecting information and assessing property for taxing purposes. Motor vehicle was placed under the supervision of the assessor to oversee the registering and titling of vehicles. At the end of 2014 the Power County Motor Vehicle Department will bring in close to $700,000 in revenue which is divided between the State of Idaho, Power County and Idaho State Parks and Recreation.
Annen: The Assessor’s office determines equitable values on real and personal property for tax purposes, in compliance with State Tax Commission regulations. The Assessor’s office is responsible for maintaining a complete and up-to-date record of land ownership and assessed values. The Assessor’s office provides assistance to county residents in the homeowner’s exemption application process, as well as helping them evaluate if they meet Property Tax Reduction Program criteria. The Assessor’s office also acts as an agent for the Idaho Transportation Department titling and registering motor vehicles.
What do you envision the assessor’s office to look like under your leadership?
Annen: I will foster a respectful and attentive environment for all customers. I will assure prompt, efficient and friendly service. Good public relations are one of my core values and will be a product of my leadership. Time management will be a key principle in assuring work is efficiently conducted. I will motivate office employees to continually grow their professional skills to best serve Power County citizens.
Thornton: What I envision the Power County Assessor’s office will look like under my leadership is very open, friendly and welcoming office. I want each customer that walks into the office to know they are important. Their question will be important and every effort will be made to help them have their question addressed. If a taxpayer has any question on the value of their property I want them to feel comfortable and welcome to visit and know I will listen to them. I will be fair, but also follow the laws of the State of Idaho that Idaho assessors must follow. I will be very conservative in running the office with the budget the Power County Commissioners a lot for the office. Monies will be spent wisely not foolishly squandered.
What is one function or service the assessor’s office offers that you believe most Power County residents do not know about that you will continue if elected?
Thornton: There are actually two services in which I feel most Power County residents are not aware are offered in the assessor’s office. The first is the Property Tax Reduction (Circuit Breaker). This is a state wide program to help homeowners with their property tax. The criteria to qualify is own and occupy your home. Must me 65 or older, or declared disabled by the Social Security Administration or Veterans Administration. Income cannot exceed $28,700 after all out of pocket medical expenses are deducted. The program pays on a scale based on where the individual qualifies. It will pay up to $1,320 of their property taxes. The second is letting people know everything in the assessor’s office public records except motor vehicle records and Circuit Breaker application. Everyone is welcome to come to the office and look at maps, property cards and any sales verification that is on file.
(Annen combined the response to this question with the response to the next question)
Is there a policy or procedure in place that you plan to change or eliminate if elected?
Annen: Most policies and procedures are established by the State; however, there are some practices that may be initiated at the discretion of County officials. I plan to implement a professional development program for the employees of the Assessor’s office. The plan will provide the ability to monitor performance and professional growth ensuring the residents of Power County receive the best possible service.
Thornton: There are no policies or procedures that are currently in place that I would change. The policies of the assessor’s office are required to follow are mandated by the Idaho State tax commission. The assessor by law must be in compliance by running a ratio study yearly. They must be between 95 to 110 percent in accuracy with the values of the property in the county. If the assessor is out of compliance we reassess the property to bring the value back into compliance. If the assessor fails to do so, the Idaho State Tax Commission will come in and bring the county into compliance. The Power County Assessor’s office follows the Power County personnel manual set by the commissioners. I plan to keep every employee in the office. Each employee does their job very well and are a valuable asset to the assessor’s office. It is very difficult to train someone to do the job as well as each employee does theirs.
What qualifications make you unique in this race?
Thornton: Stability, I plan to serve multiple terms. Power County is one of the most stable counties in Idaho due to the fact Douglas Glascock has been the assessor for multiple terms. I plan to carry on that legacy that Douglas is leaving
behind. I want Power County to continue to be a firm and stable county. Experience, I earned a degree in business administration, I have 17 years experience working the Power County Assessor’s office, I am an Idaho State Certified Tax Appraiser. My main Job description is deed processing which includes: maintaining property maps, changes to property cards, data entry, GIS mapping, estimating property taxes and reading and mapping legal descriptions. Service is very important to me not only in the work place, but in the community as well. I have 15 years on the Power County Board of Guardians, seven years as a member of the American Falls Rotary Club, six years as a member of the chamber of commerce, 16 years as a volunteer at Hillcrest Elementary School, member of the board of directors for Alpha-One and member of the advisory board for the Caring Voice Coalition. Finally, I am friendly. I love to visit with people. I want them to feel welcome and comfortable int eh office. I am always happy to be able to help someone and have them leave feeling that this office provided them with the information they needed. Everyone needs to feel welcome and my door will always be open to everyone.
Annen: I have devoted the past 37 years establishing a successful career in the Power County Assessor’s office, having achieved appointment as Chief Deputy Assessor for 19 years. I have diligently developed working relationships with the people of Power County. I have a firm understanding of all responsibilities of the Assessor’s office. I served as an elected member of District 381 School Board for 12 years and for several years I supported children’s reading groups at Hillcrest Elementary. In addition, I serve as a member of the Board of Directors for the Gerald Fehringer Youth Center, am an active leader in the religious community, as well as a member of the American Falls Historic Preservation Commission. These experiences have established my professionalism and leadership skills in handling challenging situations, managing significant projects, and encouraging community involvement.