Her office’s cost per capita remains the lowest in Southwest Florida, she tells the County Commission
On Oct. 31, Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates deposited $9,934,103 into the Sarasota County General Fund, noting in a Nov. 14 email to the County Commission that that represented what the private sector would call “profit.”
The funds were the total of income exceeding expenses for her office during the 2016 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, she pointed out.
“Income includes such things as fees on car registrations, hunting and fishing licenses, drivers’ licenses and the fees paid for the collection of ad valorem taxes,” she noted in her email.
Her annual financial report was due on Oct. 31 under the guidelines of state law, Ford-Coates added, which was why she chose that day to make the funds transfer.
Given the total of that “profit,” she continued, the county’s General Fund ended up contributing only 20% of her FY 2016 expenses.
Furthermore, Ford-Coates wrote, “I am pleased to report that our office cost per capita remains the lowest in Southwest Florida. This is due to the creativity and cost efficiency of my dedicated staff.”
She added, “One reason for our cost effectiveness stems from our use of electronic payment methods. During the last fiscal year, we experienced an 11% increase in the total amount paid on-line representing over 165,000 transactions totaling $174 million.”
Moreover, Ford-Coates noted, I can report that trend continues as evidenced by the fact that we have already collected over $40 million in 2016 property taxes online (her emphasis).”
Ford-Coates sent her email just six days after she won another term as county tax collector. The lone Democrat among the county’s constitutional officers, she defeated Republican challenger Jim Bender of Sarasota by winning 61.38% of the votes in that race in the Nov. 8 election. Ford-Coates won her first election for the seat in 1984.
Just last month, Ford-Coates won one of the highest honors presented by the Florida Tax Collector’s Association (FTCA) for excellence in the field of financial operations, the Legacy Award.
“The judging process involved for consideration of this award is arduous and includes a comprehensive review of the financial functions of the Tax Collector’s Office,” FTCA Past President Eric Zwayer of Highlands County pointed out in a news release.
Ford-Coates previously had earned the Excellence in Financial Operations Award from the organization, the release notes. However, for this latest honor, it adds, she “demonstrated that her office had further enhanced its financial operations.”
A five-person panel made up of government financial executives from throughout Florida examined a number of operations in Ford-Coates’ office — including innovation and automation, and customer focus — the release says.
As a result of a legislative mandate, Ford-Coates’ office also has been handling all of the county driver’s license transactions since May 2015. When she presented her 2017 fiscal year budget to the County Commission in June, she reported that — as of that point — her staff had served 90,000 driver’s license customers, and the office’s revenue related to that work alone had risen by $340,000, a 77% uptick.