Tulare County property tax bills sent to LA County for processing
When Tulare County residents mail out the second installment of their secured property taxes to meet the Feb. 1 deadline, their checks will be processed at a Los Angeles County bank.
Residents need not be surprised, as the Tulare County’s treasurer-tax collector has been sending their checks to a Union Bank there since 2008.
Hiley Wallis, the county’s chief deputy treasurer-tax collector, said the work used to be done in-house but it involved a prolonged and costly process.
“It used to take us three to four weeks and sometimes months to get people’s checks applied to the property management system,” she said.
With the old system, the county received the checks, processed them through its registration system, and delivered them to the bank via an armored car to be deposited.
When the county made the switch in 2008, it did not go through a bidding process.
“We did investigate and there was no lock box in Tulare County,” Wallis said. “It wasn’t a bidding process, we were already with Union Bank and they offered to do it for us.”
Since the switch, the Visalia office has seen a sharp reduction in lobby traffic, checks are deposited much quicker, and the volume of calls have decreased significantly, Wallis said.
According to Wallis, since she began working for the county in 2008, they have seen a 46 percent decrease in calls pertaining to property tax bills.
“Our No. 1 phone call was ‘Have you gotten my payment?’” she said.
She said the lobby traffic is down 34 percent.
“We used to have 42,000 people come into our lobby every year. We are now down to 27,000 and we also have a drive-thru box with substantially helps,” Wallis said.
Incoming phone calls between 2008 and 2011 are down 42 percent.
“We had 75,000 calls in 2008 and in 2011, we had 42,000,” Wallis said.
Jim Holly, president and CEO for Sierra Bancorp, said he is aware the county delivers the bills to an LA County bank and said he believes it’s due to “special technology” the company possesses.
“It’s old technology that is hardly even used today,” Holly said.
Tulare County Supervisor Allen Ishida said the current process is cost effective. He said there was no one in Tulare County that could handle such volume of work.
“When property taxes are mailed in, these banks can’t afford people to do the processing for a couple of times out of the year. You have to have a large employment base to be able to handle that,” Ishida said. “This group specializes in doing that and we found it to be very efficient compared to our staff handling those checks at one time.”
Wallis said that more than an unfavorable thing, the switch has benefitted Tulare County taxpayers.
“I think people really like the fact that their checks are getting cashed and not getting posted to their taxes,” Wallis said. “The No. 1 complaint was it took too long to get checks processed. We’ve come a long way and people are pleased, I think, and our numbers show it as well.”
Contact Denise Madrid at 784-5000, Ext. 1047. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseMadrid_.