By BARBARA CARRAWAY
It was a sunny Sunday afternoon in late May 1989, sitting at the dining room table of my neighbors, Ben and Marilyn Hurr, discussing the other two candidates’ qualifications, when I decided to run for the office of City Treasurer. So the journey began and on November 7, 1989, I was elected Chesapeake City Treasurer, the first Treasurer of the City to be elected in a contested political race and the first woman elected to this position. I am Barbara Carraway and have served as the Treasurer since January 1, 1990. I am a native of Chesapeake having lived in the Great Bridge/Hickory area of our city all of my life. My husband Ken and I have one daughter, Morgan Paige, who is a graduate of The College of William and Mary and works for a company located in Chesapeake. Serving as City Treasurer is a wonderful experience and honor for me.
As City Treasurer, I am able to help many of our citizens with tax problems. I have an open door policy so citizens do not have to make an appointment to see me. Also, I believe citizens should hear a real voice when they call the office; therefore, I am not a proponent of voice mail. For the convenience of the citizens, there are four full service satellite Treasurer’s offices located throughout the City: Great Bridge, South Norfolk, Western Branch and Deep Creek. When I speak to groups, something I enjoy doing, I like to let them know that my office is 92% funded by the City and 8% by the State.
The Treasurer is the collector of the tax bills, while the Commissioner of the Revenue and the Real Estate Assessor are the assessors of those bills. The office of the Treasurer handles many responsibilities for our City. The primary function is that of collecting all the revenues that are due the City. In addition to collecting taxes and water bills, the Treasurer also handles EMS billing and collections, miscellaneous invoice collections, Public Utilities cost participation bills collections as well as terminated water accounts, and collection of estimated State Income taxes. In addition to collecting the City’s money, the Treasurer is also responsible for the City’s investments, the reconciliation of its bank accounts, reconciling the Accounts Receivable to the General Ledger and processing bankruptcy claims. For our citizen’s convenience my office can also issue passports and hunting licenses, and in the very near future, will sell EZ Pass transponders for use over the Jordon Bridge.
I believe in automation and the use of technology. As Treasurer, I have provided alternative ways for taxpayers to pay taxes and fees. In addition to the traditional cash or check payments, debit and credit cards are also accepted at the customer service counters. On-line payment options include credit cards and e-check. A new service now available on-line is the ability to pay for events held at the Chesapeake Conference Center by credit cards.
Many functions in the Treasurer’s office are highly automated. The banking and investments are done electronically. One accomplishment I am proud of is the creation of a centralized invoice system. This system enables the Treasurer’s office to track and collect all miscellaneous charges and fees due the City. The warrant-in-debt and the lien processes are automated as well, so that these can be issued in large batches.
The collection of delinquent tax and fees is one of the most interesting facets of the office and also our most difficult task. Taxpayers are mailed delinquent notices throughout the year. If a response is not received or payment arrangements made, then we begin collecting the amounts due through the legal system. To preserve the collection period on that hard to find taxpayer or for someone who has moved out of state, a judgment is obtained which extends the statute of limitations on a bill. If we receive no results from the warrant in debt, a distress warrant is issued. Distress is a process whereby the Sheriff’s office visits the taxpayer and places a levy on property owned by the taxpayer. If the delinquent account is not paid, then the Sheriff’s office sells the levied property for payment of the account. Employer, bank and rent liens are also issued to collect delinquencies. Other effective collection tools are the boot and seizure program, debt-in-equity real estate sales and the State Debt Set-Off program. Under the debt set off program, a treasurer requests that any state income tax refund be sent to the Treasurer rather than the taxpayer for payment of that taxpayer’s delinquent account. Whether the collection process is automated or manual, it is a very labor intensive process.
As Treasurer, I believe in giving back to the community. Since its inception, the “Treasurer’s Christmas for Children program” has provided Christmas for 662 children, provided sleeping accommodations for a few children and provided 42 seniors with gift cards or fuel.
I have enjoyed serving the Citizens of Chesapeake for the past 23 years and look forward to serving you in the future.
For a more in-depth description of the treasurer’s office, please visit the City’s website.