With Volusia County voters about to elect their first tax collector in more than 50 years, the county’s revenue division will undergo a reorganization. On Tuesday, the Volusia County Council decided what those changes will look like once the tax collector takes office in January.
The revenue division is responsible for collecting and disbursing hundreds of millions of dollars every year from a variety of revenue sources, including property taxes, tourist and convention development taxes, utility taxes, business tax receipts, building permits and utility bill payments. The division also is responsible for operating the county’s tag and title offices and acts as the county’s centralized cashier for the collection of payments for everything from building permits, water bills and Votran bus passes to hauling permits, special assessments and beach citations.
Some, but not all, of these functions used to be the job of an elected tax collector. However, the elected position was abolished in Volusia County when local voters approved the county’s home-rule charter in 1970. Since then, county staff has handled all of the duties. But that’s about to change again because of a statewide ballot initiative approved by Florida voters in 2018. Scheduled to take effect on Jan. 5, 2021, Amendment 10 mandates an elected tax collector. Volusia County has filed a legal challenge seeking to clarify whether the amendment applies here due to its voter approved home-rule charter. But with the court case unsettled, the county is moving forward with the transition plan and election of a tax collector will be on the ballot in the upcoming Aug. 18 primary.
On Tuesday, council members and county staff said they didn’t want to delay action on the transition plan until after the election because of the need to prepare the revenue division and have everything in place for the Jan. 5, 2021 effective date. Still, there was general agreement that the county would be open to changes after the tax collector is elected and begins making operational decisions for the new office.
“We’ll certainly work with whomever is in the tax collector position,” said County Manager George Recktenwald.
“This is a living, breathing instrument,” added council member Ben Johnson in reference to the transition plan. “Once whoever is elected, they can start negotiating and we’re more than willing to play ball and make it work. But we have functions that have to get done.”
The transition plan identifies the statutory duties of tax collector that will transfer to that office and the services to be provided to the tax collector by the county in the same manner as the supervisor of elections and property appraiser. For the functions that fall to the new tax collector’s office, employees currently providing tax collector duties will no longer be county employees. Instead, they’ll become employees of the tax collector. However, they’ll continue to be subject to the county’s personnel rules unless the elected tax collector establishes different personnel rules. Seeking to achieve cost and operational efficiencies that avoid duplication of services, the transition plan includes provision to the tax collector of many existing county services such as facilities management, custodial services, fleet maintenance, payroll, legal, information technology, internal auditor and community information.
In preparation for Amendment 10 taking effect, the County Council approved transition plans earlier this year with Sheriff Mike Chitwood, Property Appraiser Larry Bartlett and Supervisor of Elections Lisa Lewis. If the court rules that Amendment 10 doesn’t apply to Volusia County, the transition to tax collector, and the other elected county charter officers – property appraiser, supervisor of elections and sheriff – to county constitutional officers won’t take place.
Volusia County Government Community Information Gary Davidson