Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Martin challenges Urbanik in County Auditor race

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By KEVIN NEVERS

In the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 6, Democrat incumbent Porter County Auditor Vicki Urbanik will face a challenge from Republican Karen Martin. The Chesterton Tribune invited both to respond to candidate questionnaires.

The Tribune set word limits for each question and reserved the right to edit for length.

(1) For Urbanik: Age, place of residence, term in office: 55; Morgan Township; one term.

For Martin: Age, place of residence, occupation: 63; Valparaiso; Porter County Clerk of Courts.

(2) Describe the Porter County Auditor’s responsibilities (75 words).

Urbanik: County auditors are the county government’s chief fiscal officers, providing accounting and auditing services and tax administration duties. County auditors oversee one of the busiest county offices and are responsible for applying tax deductions, calculating real property abatements, administering tax increment financing, certifying net assessed values, preparing budgetary reports, distributing excise, property and local income taxes, preparing annual financial reports, auditing and processing claims, receipting revenues, and processing payroll, among many other duties.

Martin: The County Auditor is the fiscal officer and works closely with all departments. One of the functions is to keep accurate records for all appropriations made by the Council. The Auditor verifies all claims are properly processed and certified. Preparing, preserving, and maintaining tax duplicates is an important process of the Auditor. The Auditor is also the Clerk for the Commissioners and Council, keeping records and providing information.

(3) For Urbanik: Why are you seeking re-election to the Office of Auditor? (75 words) I am seeking re-election to my second and final term as County Auditor to expand on the significant progress we’ve made enhancing the county’s finances through proper fiscal management, providing taxpayer outreach and collaboration with local government units, and implementing initiatives that promote efficient services, transparency, and the highest level of ethics in local government. As a CPA, I have the professional credentials and accounting experience needed to keep the Auditor’s Office running effectively.

For Martin: You are currently in your second and--under Indiana Code--final term of office as Porter County Clerk. That makes you one of three term-limited countywide officer holders in this cycle seeking election to a different countywide office. Why are you seeking election to the Office of Auditor? (75 words) It is imperative that the Auditor provide accurate information in a timely fashion to the public and departments while keeping individuals aware of changes and assisting them in their requests. It is my opinion that communication is key in any changing environment. Being a candidate for Auditor allows me the opportunity to provide this service to the public. The knowledge and skills I possess will enhance and improve this department.

(4) For Urbanik: Describe your achievements in office (100 words). By assuming more projects in-house despite a smaller staff size, we’ve so far saved $1 million in contractual costs while generating nearly $500,000 in new revenue. We upgraded our financial systems and implemented the county’s first timekeeping system, achieving greater accountability and transparency. Our fiscal management efforts have helped stabilize previously eroding funds, we’re typically one of the first counties to meet state deadlines, and we have developed policies providing greater clarity and consistency. Public outreach is a top priority, with taxpayer publications, a financial literacy contest for kids, Coffee with the Clerks, and a veterans’ tax project.

For Martin: How does serving as Porter County Clerk specifically qualify you to serve as Auditor? (100 words) As the Clerk, we collect approximately $20 million and distribute it accordingly. We must balance our accounts and prepare budgets to reflect multiple areas of compliance. We collect money for the Sheriff, Prosecutor, Probation, programs, county and state. We process multiple checks on a daily basis. With implementation of new software, we have given the public more access. Communicating with local and state agencies is the key factors in accomplishing our tasks. The Clerk’s Office also records, preserves, and maintains millions of records. The functions of the Clerk’s Office are similar to the Auditor’s.

(5) Differentiate yourself from your opponent and indicate in particular why you believe yourself to be a better candidate (100 words).

Urbanik: I have accounting experience and professional credentials. I’m a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Certified Government Financial Manager, Level II Assessor, Enrolled Agent tax professional, and former vice-president of the Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals. I enthusiastically signed the Northwest Indiana Ethics Pledge and believe strongly that local officials should be leaders promoting ethical government. I’m this year’s treasurer of the Indiana Auditors’ Association. I have a strong anti-nepotism policy, a deep commitment to improved internal controls, and an open door policy with staff. I work cooperatively and in a bipartisan manner with all other office holders.

Martin: My past experience on the County Council as a member and president for eight years gives me an understanding of the budget process and preparation necessary to assist in accomplishing county goals through financing and money management. As Clerk, I transformed the office from 42 full-time and ten part-time to 34 full-time and one part-time. My 2018 budget is less than my 2011 budget and I returned hundreds of thousands dollars to the General Fund in addition to providing quality service to the public. I believe in preserving the past while preparing for the future.

(6) What are the key issues in this race? (150 words)

Urbanik: This year, I was deeply honored to represent Porter County on the national stage as recipient of the “Achievement of the Year” award from the Association of Government Accountants. This award recognizes the considerable accomplishments we have made promoting accountability and improved services to taxpayers. The County Auditor can and should play a key role in advancing good government, and we need to ensure that we retain an auditor who is meticulous in her work product, provides proper fiscal management of tax dollars, understands audits and implements audit findings, applies consistency and fairness in tax and financial matters, and works in a bipartisan manner with other county leaders for the betterment of our county. I have the accounting knowledge and professional credentials needed to build on the progress we have made, and I will continue to strive for excellence in the Auditor’s Office. I believe the taxpayers deserve no less.

Martin: Processes need to be informative and streamlined. When changes are made communication should be first and foremost to reduced the necessity of duplicating work and delaying processes. When implementing new software, research and preparation will be done in detail reviewing individuals needs. Procedures need to be reviewed and followed. When individuals do not process necessary transactions it causes additional work for many. Clarity on requirements for processes needs to be addressed. We must also look at options to prepare for situations that may occur, whether it be financially or otherwise.

(7) For Urbanik: If re-elected Auditor, in what ways would you seek to improve service to Porter County residents? (100 words) I pledge to continue working full-time as your County Auditor. The Auditor’s job is complex and demanding, and I’m just as passionate about the work as when I was first elected. My CPA experience will be especially important as we implement GAAP-compliant reporting, a new fund analysis project, and expanded public outreach. As secretary of the Porter County Government Non-Profit Charitable Foundation, I look forward to additional financial responsibilities as the Foundation grows. I will continue doing the work voters elected me to do, not by relying on consultants but by emphasizing teamwork and building our staff’s professional credentials.

For Martin: If elected, what priorities would you pursue in the Auditor’s Office? (100 words) As Auditor, my priority would be to review practices and procedures with the goal of streamlining when necessary and implementing time management and accountability procedures. My experience as Clerk has shown that there are duplicative processes that occur wasting time and taxpayers money. We need to make sure that accuracy and detail are our priority while preserving the integrity of the office. It seems that far too often we add staff thinking it will resolve a problem when it actually masks the problem. We need to get to the root of the problem and address it accordingly.

 

 

 

Posted 10/5/2018

 
 
 
 

 

 

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