NILES Treasurer targets audit, stability

On the positive side, collections have increased over the last several years.
NILES -- Addressing the items in a state performance audit and achieving stability among office employees are among the goals of the city's new treasurer.
Richard Bullock began a four-year term Jan.1.
"The first day, I was really overwhelmed," he said. "With the help of the people in the office, I'm getting a handle on it. It's going to take time, I'm sure."
Bullock has a copy of the performance audit of the city's income tax department opened on his desk. The audit, released in October by state Auditor Jim Petro, listed 20 recommendations for improvements in the department.
The report also found that 40 percent of individuals and businesses within the city didn't file 2000 income tax returns. The treasurer oversees the income tax department.
"That's one of the things I want to work on is the findings from the performance audit," Bullock said. "I'm concerned about the 40 percent."
He said the actual number is lower than 40 percent and he and others in the office are working to determine the correct figure. The 40 percent figure includes people who weren't required to file the returns such as those who moved out of the city.
"We're reducing the rolls of the people who shouldn't be included," the treasurer said.
Other plans: Another state recommendation that's already been implemented is reducing from three to two the number of notices sent to delinquent taxpayers.
The notices inform the delinquent taxpayer that court action may follow failure to pay taxes.
He plans to study the report and learn more about the department before addressing the remainder of the recommendations.
"Every place can improve," he said.
But the income tax department has accomplishments to its credit, also, he said. Income tax collections have increased over the last several years, Bullock said.
"One of the things I want to address is stability in the office," he said, pointing to turnover among employees in recent years.
When an employee leaves, it takes time to hire and train someone to fill the spot.
The office includes the treasurer, which is a part-time post, Janet Rizer, who is the full-time income tax director, a clerk-treasurer and three employees.
"I think we have a good crew," Bullock said.
He's there: Bullock, who worked for many years as a math teacher and guidance counselor at Niles schools, has been in the office every day since Jan. 2.
Some council members complained that Vickie Flynn-Putnam, Bullock's predecessor, rarely came into the office in city hall during the last several months of her term.
Flynn-Putnam, who occupied the treasurer's post for several years, didn't seek re-election.
Release of the performance audit prompted Mayor Ralph A. Infante Jr. to suggest formation of an advisory committee to oversee the income tax department.
Bullock objected to the proposal and council members didn't act on it.
Bullock, who has been attending council meetings the last several months, said he plans to continue going to the twice-monthly meetings.
Although the first couple weeks have been a bit daunting, Bullock doesn't regret seeking the position.
"I do feel in some way I can help the city," he said.

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