Eagle County treasurer: 2017 was an interesting, busy year with changes in the tax code

Teak J. Simonton
Guest Commentary
Teak J. Simonton
Special to the Daily |

Last year was a very interesting and busy year for the Eagle County Treasurer’s Office.

In addition to the normal workload, new tax laws and the adjustment to the standard deduction changed the way personal income taxes will be calculated. For many taxpayers, itemizing deductions will no longer be beneficial, as the new higher standard deduction will be the best option.

This resulted in thousands of phone calls to our office late in the year, with the most common questions being whether people could pay their 2017 taxes early, before the end of the year, thus preserving the credit of those taxes as a deduction.

We were not able to provide a yes or no answer to the deduction question, and the jury is still out on this topic. The IRS has never faced this sort of thing before, and it will be considering when taxes were assessed, billed and mailed in each state, so please consult your tax accountant or attorney for clarification.

Before year’s end, however, more than 2,400 of you decided it couldn’t hurt to make these payments a few months early, and in December, we received and processed more than $20 million in advance tax payments. The treasurer’s team worked nights and weekends during the holiday season to get everything posted and deposited — a job well done.

As far as our normal routine goes, each day we receive internal county department revenue, tax payments, grant payments and other state funds and are charged with posting them to the correct revenue accounts. Monies are then deposited into the bank and ultimately distributed to taxing entities such as metropolitan districts, school districts, towns, etc. We also track and balance all of the bank activity for multiple county operations, which can be very complex.

Making sure the money that is needed for county expenses is available while trying to make money through the investment of surplus funds is an important goal of the department and an especially important part of my job. I work closely with our finance department to understand monthly funding needs as accurately as possible and then look for investment opportunities within the framework allowed by statute.

Through creative fund management, we were able to increase expected interest in 2017 by 86 percent, a net increase to the county coffers of $585,000, bringing the total interest earned for the year to $1,.26 million.

The outreach we conduct to help Eagle County property owners is significant. If your bills don’t arrive on time due to incorrect addresses, if there are issues with your payments, or if you forget to pay your taxes, we make every effort to resolve the situation with you on the phone, by email or through regular mail. We’re committed to helping owners avoid interest, penalties or tax liens on delinquent accounts, but part of the responsibility belongs to the owner, as well; please make sure you keep your address and contact information current so we can find you if we need to.

I continue to be impressed with the volume and complexity of the work in the office and even more so with the poise and professionalism of the individuals who handle these tasks each day. These are very competent women (no men on the team currently). Despite the intense focus required for the work, we have fun, too, in a friendly and respectful work environment. If you visit us, you may even get to meet one of our occasional office pets; Mr. Chris, the parakeet, being everyone’s favorite.

So it was a busy year that seemed to pass very quickly. Moving forward, we will continue to focus on refining and clarifying customer-service approaches, evaluating and streamlining internal processes and enhancing collaborative and respectful relationships within and outside of the office.

I’m always looking for ways we can serve the public better, and my door is always open. I hope that if you have questions or concerns you will contact me to discuss them.

Teak J. Simonton is the Eagle County treasurer, directing all aspects of Eagle County’s Treasurer and Public Trustee departments. You can reach her at 970-328-8868 or