Vernon, Meagher answer questions on financial history
The Nevada County Treasurer-Tax Collector candidates differentiated themselves in experience at a candidate forum, but showed some similarities in fiscal policy.
At the League of Women Voters forum Thursday at Grass Valley City Hall, Tina Vernon touted her experience working with county finances, while Dai Meagher spoke of his experience as a certified public accountant.
Both espoused fiscally conservative approaches to the position, if elected.
The treasurer-tax collector is responsible for billing property owners for and collecting property taxes. The person in the post, elected to a four-year term, also is the treasurer for every public entity within Nevada County. All money belonging to these districts must be deposited with the treasurer, who is responsible for investing the funds.
The elected candidate will be responsible a treasury that had a cash balance of nearly $106 million (as of Friday), of which 97 percent, or currently $98 million, is invested, according to interim Treasurer-Tax Collector Marcia Salter.
The yearly compensation, combining salary and benefits, is about $150,000.
Below are questions posed by a media panel and members of the public, followed by answers from the two candidates.
Q: Vernon declared bankruptcy and Meagher had a tax lien, both in the past. Why did you not disclose this in your campaign?
Meagher: The lien was in 1995 and was promptly paid. I didn’t think it was important, and candidly, I didn’t remember. Probably neither Tina’s nor my situation is relevant to this situation.
Vernon: I never thought it would not get out. (Declaring bankruptcy in 1996) was the best decision for my family and my children. If it was related to business, I definitely would have thought to disclose it.
Q: What changes would you make in the way the treasury invests?
Meagher: Right now, under the charge of (interim Treasurer-Tax Collector) Marcia Salter, she’s already implemented what I would do. I’d be more focused on preventing risk than going after higher interest.
Vernon: Our investment policy as it stands has helped keep the county financially stable.
I would really analyze the investment policy in place. I would insure not only that we are investing prudently, but look at the duration of our investments.
Q: How would you maintain your independence in office?
Vernon: I realize how important it is to be an independent voice. I have the trust of all five board members, and I know they have to answer to the constituents.
Meagher: All CPAs are required to maintain independence in fact and in appearance, and I would carry that forward as treasurer.
I would probably not have dinner at certain board members private homes. I’m not endorsed by the supervisors so I clearly don’t have any conflict.
Q: What differences are there between the two of you in policy?
Meagher: As far as investment policy I don’t think there is a large difference.
I do feel anything that affects the treasurer indirectly, I feel the treasurer could comment on. For example, the privatization of the library. I’ve been told that’s beyond the scope of the job, but who else is going to talk about it?
Vernon: The biggest policy difference is, I believe the taxpayer has the largest voice. The treasurer has a voice, but has no impact on those decisions.
It’s important to understand the duty of the office is to uphold all the laws. We cannot be setting policy.
Q: How much money would you make as Treasurer-Tax Collector compared to what you make now?
Meagher: I would see a small reduction in earnings.
Vernon: It would be an $18,000 raise for me.
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