LIBPA sponsors forum for candidates for county auditor

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The May meeting of the Lady’s Island Business and Professional Association will consist of a political forum for Mr. Jim Beckert and Mr. George Wright, who are competing in the June 10 primary election to be the Republican candidate for the office of Beaufort County Auditor in the November general election.

The present auditor, Sharon Burris, who has held the office since 1997, has not declared her intention to seek re-election and no one has filed to run for the office as a Democrat.

The meeting is open to the public and will be at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, May 13 in the Beaufort County Association of Realtor’s Headquarters in the Palmetto Business Park on Lady’s Island Drive.

JIM BECKERT

Candidate for Beaufort County Auditor

I made the decision to offer myself as candidate for the Beaufort County Auditor position because the current office is struggling with priorities, performance, and community creditability.  I possess the experience and background to make a difference in these vital areas.  As an elected official, business leader, and retired reserve officer, I live by three cornerstone principles being fair, honest and transparent.  As a leader, I do my own research to define the critical issues, involve stakeholders for input, and measure performance to build thoughtful plans, analyze results, design improvements for maximum benefit, verify outcomes and keep targeted control over the process for continued improvement.

As a community leader on the Beaufort County School Board, I was elected as a change agent focusing on parent choice, fiscal responsibility, accountability and district transparency.  Standing out as one of the most outspoken members, I have been able to shape discussion at the board leadership level on a number of major funding and public policy topics.

Based on my background and experience with technology, I started the discussion to change the district’s technology plan and built unanimous board support for my proposal that has resulted in over 1,000 additional devices being purchased and made available to students in school year 2015 for the same amount of money.

Additionally, I started out as the sole voice focused on changing the capacity of the new elementary school in Bluffton.  The original concept was a K-5 school and I proposed a K-8 school.  This made sense because the school would be at projected capacity within 4 years.  That change now addresses the middle school capacity bottleneck and gives greater capacity for the elementary school age population.  That proposal also passed with a unanimous vote.

These examples and others demonstrate my ability to lead, build support, and shape public policy decisions using sound business experience developed over a 25 year business career.  I will bring that same energy and focus to the Auditor’s Office.  I will approach the Auditor’s Office as I have the school board and our family business.  Under my leadership the work will start in the following areas.

Accountability and Transparency:  Serving as the taxpayer advocate, I will correct the system reliability problems and the integrity of the property information collected and reported on tax bills through that process.  I will develop a strategic plan establishing goals and objectives with time lines for process improvement in the areas of operations, intradepartmental processes, staff development, and leadership.  Starting on day one, I will engage all stakeholders to change the process to reduce duplicated effort and streamline the work process to improve taxpayer service.  As advocate and leader, I plan to have regularly scheduled business hours at all Auditor office locations in the county to hear and address taxpayer concerns.

Communications:  I will inform, educate and empower the taxpayer with posted easy step by step processes to complete their property reporting.  I will regularly give updates and report the progress of the strategic plan that will improve county operations, service to the taxpayer and government accountability.  I will work closely with all public entities in the county to streamline and improve the mil setting process around the budget and to improve their budget projections.

Execute the Duties:  As one of three officers needed to ensure adequate checks and balances, I will work to restore and maintain that system in county government.  As Auditor, I will work with the other two offices to detect deficient controls and duplicated effort.  That responsibility includes monitoring the accurate reporting of taxpayer property.

Operations:  I will run the office like a business.  When there is a problem I will DEFINE the problem, ANALYZE the issue, establish MEASUREMENTS for performance, DESIGN the process to prevent reoccurrence, TRAIN the staff to the higher standard of performance and VERIFY results while continually looking for ways to improve the process. This effort will ensure system reliability and data integrity while collecting the revenue to run our government.

I have the business experience and reputation as a community leader to effectively create positive change in the Auditor’s office. I will place the taxpayer at the center of any decision making.  It’s time for a new independent strategy from outside of government to come in and address the ongoing issues with a fresh approach.

On June 10th, I’m asking you to vote for Jim Beckert for Auditor.

Note: The above article was prepared by Mr. Beckert in response to a request by LIBPA for an article on the subject of his choice as a method of allowing the members of the community to become better informed regarding the candidates for the County Auditor.

GEORGE WRIGHT

Candidate for Beaufort County Auditor

I am George Wright, a retired Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant who has been a resident of Beaufort County for almost 40 years.  I was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah. I enlisted in the Marine Corps directly out of high school in 1972.  While serving this great county I trained pilots and support personal on the F-4J/S aircraft.  After retiring from the Marine Corps in 1992 I went to work for Vanguard Enterprises, a plastic tubing manufacturing plant, in northern Beaufort County.  I started in the production department and worked my way up the “corporate ladder” to become the company’s Logistics Manager.  In 2001 the manufacturing plant shut down.

 In 2001, I became an employee with the Beaufort County Purchasing Department.  In 2003, I requested a transfer to the County’s Information Technology (IT) Department because of my expertise in training personnel.  I was welcomed by the IT Department to be able to train County employees in basic skills of computer literacy.

I have worked for Beaufort County for almost 13 years and have extensive experience working with the Auditor’s Office for the last 10 years.  I helped implement the Auditor’s new tax software, performed their daily duties and trained them in their procedural guidelines.  Just recently I developed a process for them to be able to mass input values for watercraft accounts which will save them over 3 months of manual data entry.

The current Auditor claims that the problems within the Auditor’s Office stems from the tax software.   There’s nothing wrong with the tax software that the Auditor’s Office uses.   It’s the leadership within the Auditor’s office that really concerns me and it should concern you.

How can any organization (office) attempt to successfully complete their mission when they don’t have the proper supervision, reinforcement of the training or the proper tools to do their job? The Beaufort County Auditor’s Office has a leadership problem.   It is totally non-existent!  I will provide that leadership.

Over a year ago I decided enough was enough and it was time to make a change in the Auditor’s Office.  I started taking note of all the good, the bad and the ugly that was taking place within the Auditor’s Office.  There’s very little good, a whole lot of bad and too much ugly.  I have 4 primary initiatives as County Auditor.

My first initiative is “Five Star Customer Service”:  I can only think of two reasons why you should ever have to go to the Auditor’s Office.   If you have to contact the Auditor’s Office YOU will receive prompt and courteous service whether in person, by phone or by email.

My second initiative is “Increased Transparency”:  I will publish procedures, policies, forms and instructions how to fill out their forms on line.  You will be able to go on line to handle your business with the Auditor’s Office without even leaving the comfort your home.

My third initiative is “Property Account Cleanup”:   Last year the Auditor’s Office was responsible for generating over 330,000 tax bills that had to be collected on.  Think of the postage involved in sending out over 330,000 bills.  That’s almost $160,000 in postage alone!  More than 2% of those tax bills were returned to the Treasurer’s Office because of a bad address.  Why did Auditor’s Office knowingly mail out tax bills with bad addresses?  Is the Auditor’s Office required to send out the bill?  Yes, they are.  But why did the Auditor’s Office not attempt to correct the bad addresses?  Think of the postage wasted.  Also, last year, at least 6% of the tax bills mailed out had to be adjusted throughout the course of the year.  That’s over 17,000 bills that had to be adjusted.  Twenty five percent of those adjustments were a result of the Assessor’s Office applying a new 4% Legal Residence Assessment or other exemptions that the taxpayer qualified for on their real property.  The remaining 75% of those adjustments were a result of the Auditor’s Office applying improper values to accounts that were personal property.

My fourth initiative is “Streamlining the Effectiveness between the Auditor, Assessor and Treasurer Offices”:   Currently there is a strained relationship between the Assessor and the Auditor and there is a strained relationship between the Treasurer and the Auditor.  The problem is not the Assessor or the Treasurer.  It is the Auditor!  I will work with the Assessor and Treasurer offices to effectively serve you the taxpayer.

As Auditor I will begin implementing new innovative programs.  Here are a few examples of those programs I will implement:

You will be able to apply for the vehicle high mileage exemption, if you qualify, without having to come to the Auditor’s Office.  You will be able to apply for the exemption either on line or by mail.

Under the Soldiers and Sailors Relief Act military personal stationed in Beaufort County will be able to apply for a personal property exemption without having to come to Auditor’s Office.  Military personnel will be able to apply for the personal property exemption either on line or by mail.

Residents of Beaufort County who enroll their children into Beaufort County schools will be notified that they have 45 days to register their vehicle in South Carolina and pay Beaufort County taxes if they are driving around with an out-of-state license plate.  They have to realize that the schools get a large part of the tax dollars collected.  It is unfair to other Beaufort County taxpayers for them to send their children to Beaufort County schools and not pay Beaufort County taxes on their vehicle.

I will enforce within the Auditor’s Office how important it is that in a technological world that you must have a deep understanding of the technology so you can make the right decisions.  As a leader, it’s not enough about hiring people who knows what has to be done, but how it has to be accomplished.

I look forward to serving you as the Beaufort County Auditor.

Note: The above article was prepared by Mr. Wright in response to a request by LIBPA for an article on the subject of his choice as a method of allowing the members of the community to become better informed regarding the candidates for the County Auditor.  

 

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