By Alex Bridges
Warren County holds a special election Tuesday to decide the next commissioner of the revenue. The county called for the election after the unexpected death in August 2012 of longtime Commissioner of the Revenue John H. Smedley Sr.
Sherry T. Sours is running as an independent candidate for Commissioner of the Revenue. She has worked in the Commissioner's Office for nearly 35 years and as interim commissioner for the past year.
Sours gave answers to these questions:
Q. As commissioner, what would you do in your office to increase efficiency, improve customer service, save the county money?
A. In the last year I have increased productivity in the office with existing document imaging software and will continue because with more documents electronically scanned the staff can locate a document quicker, which increases efficiency in the office and improves customer service. We have emptied several lateral files within the main office and are continuing to scan older documents to reduce paper storage and to one day eliminate/reduce the size of archival storage area in the government center for our office. As interim commissioner for over a year, I have saved the county money by not hiring temporary help in my office to fill my old position.
Q. What opportunities would you pursue as commissioner to bring more revenue into the county?
A. The Commissioner of the Revenue's office is bound by state law and local ordinances on what you can tax/assess. To increase revenue in our office, we can use more stringent auditing tools to bring in more revenue on business licenses, business personal property, machinery and tools, and personal property tax relief.
Q. What opportunities would you pursue that would give some taxpayers relief?
A. Communication, communication, communication. Many citizens qualify for real estate tax relief on their property, however until we receive the required documents to verify all income and assets, including a complete relief application, we can't approve the relief. We are again bound by Virginia law and local ordinances on the requirements of this program; however, I would like to see the income limits increased by the Board of Supervisors to allow more citizens into the program for the upcoming year.
Q. Would you push to increase staffing in your office as the economy picks up, construction resumes and people buy more, newer vehicles?
A. No, a marginal increase in vehicles or newer vehicles alone does not increase the workload enough to warrant additional staff. Our office does not stop producing tax books or making assessments because the economy is down. We had an increase in staff -- two full time positions back in 1996 -- because of proration of personal property. Approximately 10 years ago - in 2003, the board wanted to reduce our staff due to budget reduction reasons. However, we fought this reduction and actually gained a deputy I full time position in the real estate office. Our office did not request any additional staff when we went to twice a year tax billing in 2010, which has increased the workload tremendously.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org