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The county treasurer plays a major role in the fiscal operations of local governments in Whatcom County.

Does every Washington State County have a county treasurer?
Every County has an elected county treasurer (38) except King County (Seattle), which, through its home rule charter, has an appointed position. (RCW 36.16.030) Washington State Constitution Article 11, Section 5.

How does a person become county treasurer?
Article 11, Section 5 of the Washington State Constitution provides for a county treasurer who shall be elected by the qualified voters of each county. (RCW 36.16.030)

Why is the county treasurer an elected position?
The county treasurer position was deliberately established in the Washington State Constitution to provide independence in managing public monies.  The position provides a check and balance between the clerk, assessor, auditor and commissioners.  The treasurer also serves other local government entities, e.g. schools, ports, fire districts, etc. besides the county.  The treasurer is accountable directly to the citizens on how the public's money is managed.                                                                             Back to Top

How long is the term of an elected county treasurer?
County treasurers hold office for a term of four years.  If a vacancy occurs during a term, an election is held at the next succeeding general election. (RCW 36.16.010)

Who may serve as county treasurer?
State law does not prescribe any formal qualifications other than being a qualified voter.  Every person elected to the county treasurer's office takes an oath to faithfully and impartially discharge the duties of the office to the best of his/her ability and furnishes a bond that he or she will faithfully perform the duties of his/her office and account for and distribute all money which the treasurer receives.  The requirement of being bonded implies that the person is a qualifying adult and is of sufficiently trustworthy character to secure and provide the required surety bond.

What are the primary duties of the county treasurer?        Top
The county treasurer plays a major role in the financial infrastructure of local government.  The treasurer is the custodian of all funds for the county and governmental subdivisions.  The treasurer's office operates much like a bank.  The treasurer is primarily responsible for:

  • Collecting real and personal property taxes (including performing foreclosure and personal property distriant activities on delinquent accounts), special assessments, excise tax, gambling taxes and miscellaneous receipts from other county districts and departments.
  • Accounting for all funds and deposits of revenues for the state, county, cities, and junior taxing districts (schools, cemeteries, fire and drainage).
  • Determining if adequate cash is available and authorizing the release of warrants for payment to vendors.
  • Administering short and long term debt financing.
  • Managing cash flow of the county and investing funds not needed for immediate expenditures for the county and junior taxing districts.
  • Coordinating bank services and facilitating financial planning within and between the county and various taxing districts.

Who makes deposits to the county treasury?         Back to Top
Property taxpayers, junior taxing districts and county departments comprise the majority of the depositors.  All monies collected by the treasurer are deposited in a qualified financial institution.  All junior taxing districts and county departments are required to deposit monies within 24 hours.

How does the county treasurer assure the safekeeping of public funds as required by law?
The county treasurer, through a competitive bid process, selects a primary depository as set forth by the Public Deposit Protection Commission.  The treasurer maintains records of all the deposits and withdrawals and reconciles all bank statements, thereby assuring the accuracy and safety of public funds.  The County Finance Committee, comprised of the county treasurer, county auditor, and chair of the county legislative authority, oversees banking services.

How does the treasurer handle unappropriated funds and/or funds not needed immediately to meet the obligations of the county?
Upon written direction of the governing body of any municipal corporation, the county treasurer may invest funds not required for immediate expenditure in legally authorized investments such as certificates of deposit, repurchase agreements, bankers acceptances, treasury bills, bonds, notes, commercial paper, and federal agency issues.                                                        Back to Top

Is an investment policy required?
Yes.  By Washington State law, the County Finance Committee is responsible for establishing an investment policy.  The investment policy provides the framework in which the county treasurer invests the public's money.  Whatcom County's Investment Policy is certified by the Washington Municipal Treasurer's Association.

What percentage of regional versus county services does the county treasurer provide?
It is estimated that 60 percent of the workload in the Whatcom County Treasurer's Office is directed toward providing services to the taxing districts and cities and 40 percent to the county.           Back to Top

How does the county treasurer add value to the taxing districts and other governmental agencies?   

  • Efficiency and expertise in providing countywide treasury services.
  • Centralized collection (receipting of taxes, fees, etc.).
  • Reduces local government financial service costs to county taxpayers.
  • Investment pooling to increase interest earning, especially to  smaller entities.
  • Helps with cash flow funding by investing in registered warrants as appropriate.
  • Reduces banking service costs through volume discounts.
  • Eliminates the need to hire staff at the district level to perform treasury management services (staff plus overhead costs).
  • Provides additional internal controls.
  • Provides financial analysis on projects at the district's request.
  • Provides budget assistance in such areas as revenue projections and debt service payments.

How is the county treasurer's office structured?
The Whatcom County Treasurer's Office has four departments:
Finance – Accounting, cash management, banking services, financial reporting, and debt management.
Tax Service – Taxpayer services, remittance processing, and cashiering.
System Management – Program assistance, coordination of data processing, public assistance and tax statement production.
Collections – Special Assessments, personal property, real property and foreclosure processes.

What confidence can the public have in the fiscal structure of county government?
Washington State county government is structured so that county financial undertakings are open to the public and within the actual office knowledge of more than one elected official.  The county treasurer is an integral part of this system of internal controls designed to prevent excessive concentration of power in one official.  Dispersing public fiscal duties among several officials assures an orderly and honorable administration of public finance.

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