This is part of an ongoing series where the Pioneer will be meeting with County department heads to learn what their departments do.
Judging from the name of the office, you likely guessed the County Treasurer has something to do with handling and managing the county’s money. As explained by Treasurer Leah Castro, they are the “custodian of public funds.” They collect property taxes and fees not just for the county, but for all the taxing entities within the county. They then make sure the funds are properly distributed.
“We serve as the County’s bank,” Castro said.
The taxing entities include not just La Paz County, but the school, fire and special districts. They also handle some fees and fines from the courts.
The Treasurer’s office takes in deposits from the different taxing entities, Castro said. They record and document all these deposits, and they also keep track of withdrawals from the different entities. They provided monthly statements to taxing entities on what funds they have.
“We keep track of what’s going in and what’s going out,” Castro said.
The Treasurer does not collect sales taxes. These go directly to the Arizona Department of Revenue. Every month, ADOR wires them regarding sales tax revenues, which are then deposited in the County’s general fund.
Castro said her department works closely with the Finance Department and the Assessor’s Office. She said they have nothing to do with setting the County’s budget or tax rates. They also have a lot of rules, regulations and procedures they have to follow which are set by state law.
“Transparency is the guideline for how the County does things,” she said.
As for paying tax bills, Deputy Treasurer Rhonda Cook said taxpayers don’t have to pay it all in one lump sum. They can make payments on taxes and fees, and they can take credit or debit card payments online or over the phone.
“Whatever they can afford,” Cook said. “As long as the property doesn’t have a lien on it.”
If a property has a lien on it, Castro said full payment of the back taxes is needed.
Castro said a property may have a lien placed on it if taxes are more than two years delinquent. These properties can also go out for a lien sale. These properties are listed every year in the Pioneer, usually in January or February.
Castro and her staff explained that buying property at a lien sale is an investment. They are not buying the property, but the lien. The buyer pays all the taxes owed on that property. If the owner of the property pays off the taxes owed, the lien buyer collects that money. They also collect the interest on the taxes owed. After three years, if the back taxes haven’t been paid, the lien buyer may foreclose on the property and get the property for himself or herself.
“They either get their money back with interest, or they get the property,” Castro said.
Castro said many people come to their office to make payments, and they are often not happy about it. Others are confused or have a lot of questions. She said she and her staff try to be as courteous and helpful as they can. If they can’t answer questions, they’ll refer them to someone who can.
“We try to make it as pleasant as we can for the taxpayers,” she said.
The La Paz County Treasurer’s Office is located at 1108 S. Joshua Avenue, Suite 203 in the County Complex. Their phone number is 928-669-6145.