Amy Yost (R) – Summit County Treasurer
Amy Yost (Republican)
Summit County Treasurer
Question 1: What are your qualifications to run for county treasurer and why do you want to serve?
I have over 20 years of experience in the financial services industry. I currently hold seven licenses in the mortgage and security industries that require a high standard of ethics and integrity to maintain them. I currently serve on the Summit County RAP tax committee, and have served as treasurer for two non-profit organizations, as well as president of several committees. I have been a small-business owner, and know that to ensure successful financial independence, the books need to be balanced and spending needs to be in line with the revenue and budget.
In business, the customer always comes first and there needs to be honesty and integrity when working with them. I feel there is currently a disconnection between the citizens and the county government. We need to have more accountability and trust, and become more unified within our community. The citizens need to come first. As treasurer, I want to bring a higher level of customer service to each and every taxpayer, and help unify our county offices.
Question 2: The state just changed the term length for this office in order to stagger county elections in the future. Was that a good or bad idea and are you prepared to make a 6-year commitment to the job?
I think that the jury is still out as to whether or not changing the term to stagger the county elections will be a good idea or not. Our senators have terms that are staggered every two years, which gives voters an opportunity of getting in some "new blood" that can alleviate things from getting too lopsided. This can be a good thing. Our county changed three offices to a staggered schedule which may not have as much of an impact. However, historically there is a larger voter turnout when there are more candidate races and there is concern that voter turnout will drop significantly if there are only a few races in the off years. Whether the term is 4 or 6 years makes no difference to me, as I am fully committed to using the full term to serve the citizens of our county.
Question 3: Does the county have enough money in reserve to handle an unforeseen crisis and if not what changes would you recommend?
As a financial rule of thumb, one should have a minimum of 3-6 months of expenses set aside in a rainy-day fund. Currently the 2014 operating budget is a little over $51 million. There is $10.2 million in the Tax Stability fund, which can only be accessed by the people through a vote. So, aside from the Tax Stability fund, our county has a surplus of approx. $5.3 million that could be used for an emergency. Depending on what type of crisis should arise, the county may have access to additional state and federal resources. It must be a priority to keep the funds intact and not use them for other budget items so the funds are available and liquid when needed. Focus needs to be on continually adding to the surplus. doing this the county will be more than prepared to handle any unforeseen situation.
Question 4: Do you think taxpayer understand their tax bills and the process for ensuring they are accurate – what can you do to help make that process more transparent?
It has been my experience that many homeowners do not understand how to read their tax bill. Issues are whether the home is being taxed as a primary residence or second home, understanding what the separate line items represent and how they apply to what is actually being collected. The process for taxpayers to correct and contest them isn’t clear and there are many that do not understand what to do. I would revise the tax bills to clarify the charges and simplify the format so they are easily readable and understandable as to how taxes are being calculated. I would promote taxpayer education and ensure that taxpayers know the Treasurer’s Office is open to the citizens if they have questions at any time, whether in-person or online, and that they have a forum to help them understand their notifications more clearly and how to correct inaccuracies.
Question 5: The county’s tax rate is based, in part, on the previous year’s collection rate. Do you have any suggestions about how to improve collections so taxpayers in good standing are not penalized for those who do not pay on time?
I believe when the delinquencies were published in the local papers, the public notification served as an alternative notice that alerted homeowners there may be a problem or an error that otherwise would have not been identified. However, I believe that even though stopping that practice has saved the county money, it has also taken away the public notification that may have prompted folks to pay on time. It would be a good idea to revisit the practice of publishing the names in the paper. I would research who has delinquent taxes and why, and work with them to find a solution so that the delinquency percentage goes down. In addition, I would expand efforts to make certain all taxpayers, especially seniors, the disabled and veterans are aware of and take advantage of any benefits available to them.
Question 6: Please differentiate your platform from your opponent’s.
I have worked in the financial industry for the past 20+ years, and because of my real working and practical experience in the real-estate lending industry, I understand the properties and their values countywide. I was born and raised in Summit County and have lived and worked here most of my life. I know the people. I know the communities. I know the diversities that we have here, and I am familiar with the uniqueness that we have in our county. I understand the differences between the resort areas of Deer Valley and the rural areas of Henefer. I will work closely with the other departments within the county offices, and make sure that the books balance and that any spending is budgeted and appropriately authorized and accounted for. It should be a top priority to make sure that all transactions and systems regarding county funds are kept secure and that we take steps to get our county to a higher standard of integrity and professionalism. Although our county has different lifestyles within it, all citizens deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and as county treasurer, I will put the citizens’ best interests and needs first.
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Court report: Week of June 22