Three seek county treasurer seat

The primary duty of the Bartholomew County Treasurer is that of tax collector. While most people think the office is only concerned with property taxes, their responsibilities also applies to other to other areas such as inheritance and license branch excise taxes.

Republic Barb Hackman ran unopposed for the seat in 2018. But this election, she is being challenged by two candidates: Democrat Jessica Hendry and Independent Tom Heller.

Q: In case of delinquent taxes, the sale of real property may be requested by the treasurer. Since delinquent taxes might be the result of many different scenarios, what options should be considered for the delinquent tax payer before a tax sale is considered?

Hackman: You can be behind up to three installments (one installment due every six months) before a tax sale is considered. The office provides payment plans that will prevent people from losing their homes. Credit and debit cards, as well as online payments, are accepted. The newly initiated Indiana Homeowner Assistance Fund pays property taxes for those who suffered from COVID-19 that gives the individual or family five years to pay back the money.

Hendry: That’s a dicey issue, because it’s no little thing to put a lien on somebody’s home. When you look at options, you certainly look at a payment plan with the understanding that people may not have the thousands of dollars they owe.

Heller: Having been on the short list of a sheriff’s tax sale for trying to work out a problem with a condominium association, you (bet) I will look at issues and options available under state code. Right now, the property tax system harkens back to the Middle Ages when the King, not you, owns your land.

Q: What would you like to accomplish if elected to this office?

Hackman: I want to continue operating as efficiently as possible. That includes providing alternatives to standing in line to make payments in the spring and fall. We’ve also made online payments more user-friendly, and installed lock boxes with local banks for customer convenience.

Hendry: I want to focus on accuracy, accountability and transparency. We need to have that when millions of dollars in taxpayer funds are being handled.

Heller: My aim is to retrieve the tax base that was taken away in a surreptitious manner willingly or unwittingly, as if it was annexed (through creating a tax increment financing (TIF) district.) It will amount to $40 million in unearned revenue by transferring that property tax base away. While the treasurer’s office has no direct influence over that, it can serve as a platform to speak about a wide range of finance issues.

Q: A local judge is very much guided by precedent of local, federal and state law. Is most of what the Bartholomew County Treasurer’s office does guided by state regulators?

Hackman: Yes. Mostly through the Indiana State Board of Accounts. We submit a monthly treasurer’s report (of accounts receivable and payable) to the agency. Internal controls and responsibilities are largely set out in state statutes. We also work with the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance and the Indiana Treasurer’s office.

Hendry: It’s difficult to get an idea of what that entails without actually working in the treasurer’s office. But there are obviously state procedures and policies in place. Now, are those clearly communicated? That is hard to know right off hand. But you would think if you are entrusted with that office, there would be policies and procedures in place. There should also be places where you can reach out and get that information.

Heller: Do they give county treasurers much leeway? I think the answer is basically “no.” I’m not sure who sets down guidelines, but certainly the state Legislature does. The State Board of Accounts and the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance are administrative agencies who are confined by state laws and directives.

Q: What skills or background are most valuable in being a good Bartholomew County treasurer?

Hackman: Knowledge of local government, as well as knowing how state and local government work together. I think it’s also important to be service-oriented with the mindset of helping the taxpayers.

Hendry: Accounting is what specifically drew me to this job. I genuinely felt it was a job I was qualified for, and had knowledge of. When you talk about managing a budget that large, it is detailed work. So you need a good, solid financial background to be able to manage the job properly.

Heller: First and foremost, accounting skills would be important. Also knowledge of finance, since the treasurer does sit with the three county commissioners on a county finance board. My skills are mostly in business areas that encompass accounting. But I tend to think more broadly in terms of finance, so I can question local government officials on whether they are taking the most effective way in accomplishing a goal.

Hackman

Name: Barbara J. Hackman (R)

Age: 66

Address: Columbus

Previous elected positions: Served five years as Columbus Township Assessor, 10 years as county auditor and is completing her first term as county treasurer.

Current employer: Bartholomew County government

Educational background: Graduated from Columbus East High School in 1974. Completed many classes and obtained certifications focused on government financing through the Indiana Association of Counties. Completed Leadership Academy conducted by the National Association of Counties.

Community Service: Served eight years as Bartholomew County Republican Party chairwoman, member of Rotary Club, 4-H leader for more than 20 years, served 10 years on the St. Peter’s Lutheran Church Foundation, current president of Home Extension Clubs and volunteer with several nonprofits.

Family: Husband, John. Two adult daughters and six grandchildren.

Hendry

Name: Jessica Hendry (D)

Age: 38

Address: Columbus

Previous elected positions: none

Current employer: Accounting supervisor at the headquarters of Elwood Staffing

Educational background: Graduated from Columbus North High School in 2002 and completed associate’s degree in accounting from Ivy Tech State College in 2021.

Community Service: Involved with the Bartholomew County Democratic Party.

Family: Single

Heller

Name: Tom Heller (I)

Age: 71

Address: Columbus

Previous elected positions: none

Current employer: Retired

Educational background: Bachelor’s degree in economics and master’s degree in regional property economics from the University of Pennsylvania.

Community Service: Uses education and background to provide advice and concern to government officials during community discussions involving a number of topics.

Family: Single