Trustee’s Office making more changes…

December 17th, 2014

County changes banking strategy

By Jeremy Nash jeremy.nash@news-herald.net

Following Loudon County Commission’s recent approval to establish a new check clearing system to pay vendors through First National Bank, Loudon County Trustee Chip Miller hopes to soon have all accounts transferred from BB&T to begin what he believes is a more efficient way for the county to do its banking.

Miller said daily operations, such as checking, deposits and clearing of accounts, will be handled by First National Bank. FSG Bank will handle the county’s idle funds and place them into an investment account, including accounts for the Loudon County Solid Waste Disposal Commission reserve fund and the county reserve fund.

The county’s involvement with FSG on a daily basis will be “limited,” he said. Funds will be bulked together at the end of each day. As a result, Miller said the setup will be “cleaner” than what the county has with BB&T, which has provided services to the county for 39 years.

“It’s going to reduce duplication. It’s going to reduce the risk of errors,” Miller said. “We do have errors that go in between the two accounting systems, and when that happens it bogs both systems down versus one person looking for why didn’t this balance. In a nutshell, it’s going to allow us to focus on the taxpayer, focus on idle — investing idle funds.”

The switch, which Miller hopes to have fully made by Monday, will go from a modified warrant system to a “true trustee” checking system that will allow the trustee’s office to operate in a more timely and efficient manner by moving money in a single transfer instead of individual accounting with every check.

“We’ll go to First National every day to make the deposit,” Miller said. “Tracy Blair’s office, which we work very closely with, will be sending us down the same fax that we get today, but instead of getting 40 (requests) of them we’ll get seven of them and they’ll say, ‘This is what we need.’ So we’re trying to spread that many in there, and they’ll write the checks like they do now.”

Blair, county budget director, said the county’s payroll checking accounts have been set up in this different method for “quite some time.” The details will still need to be ironed out, but Blair said she thought her department will be able to make fewer requests per day to the trustee’s office.

“The way things are right now, the trustee reconciles to the bank for all of the vendor checks, and then my department reconciles to the trustee’s office,” Blair said. “We are required to do that, each check. So, it’s not that we’re not reconciling at all for our vendor checks. It’s just that right now the trustee’s office reconciles with the bank for each check, and now my department will reconcile with the bank for each vendor check.

“We will still have to reconcile overall balances with the trustee’s office because the trustee will still be making cash transfers into the checking clearing accounts for whatever the total amount of checks are that day,” she added. “So, he’s still, he — the trustee — the trustee’s office still has a reconciliation with the bank at that level and then we still have a reconciliation, so it’s not that we don’t reconcile, we do, it’s just that the manner in which that reconciliation is done will change.”

Currently, two accounts have been transferred to FSG Bank. The county reserve fund on Nov. 19 totaled more than $8.7 million, and the Loudon County Solid Waste Disposal Commission reserve fund, as of the same date, was about $1.5 million. The main account at BB&T still has more than $17 million. Miller said the county will continue to do business with BB&T, albeit on a lower scale.

“We will also still maintain a relationship with BB&T in that Tellico Village has a BB&T branch,” Miller said. “… We receive payments and stuff from BB&T. If you’re a Tellico Village taxpayer, and you don’t want to come all the way down here, you can drop off your check as long as you have your bill at BB&T in Tellico Village and in Greenback, which we know that’s about as far as you can get from the county seat.”

The shift in banking to FSG Bank has boosted the county investment rate to 45 basis points, Miller said. An investment in earnings is expected to be $101,000-$105,000, and Miller said he believes that figure will be sustainable. Basis points are units of measure used to describe a percentage change in value or rate.

“That’s not a ceiling, that’s a floor,” Miller said. “That number is fixed for a year. I think that it’s very sustainable. I can’t imagine rates going any lower, and so I think that number in my opinion only has the potential to increase.”

Miller said “several other banks” were considered, but ultimately he thought the best situation would be to have one bank handle the checking, deposits and clearing, and another bank handle the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation-insured investments.

“We’re part of the community,” David Allen, president of First National Bank, said. “This bank is here, and if we can’t jump in and help the county trustee when he needs help, then that’s — we’re part of the community, that’s what we’re here for.”

Miller said BB&T previously required the county maintain at least $18 million in the bank without drawing fees.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for us,” Matt Webster, commercial banking officer at FSG, said. “We’ve got the office there in Lenoir City, and one of the things that FSG wants to do is focus on community banking and small business relationships, and part of that we’re focused on going out and working with county governments, school districts, utility companies, anything of that nature.”

Loudon County Changing Banking System

December 2nd, 2014

Hugh G. Willett
4:33 PM, Dec 2, 2014

LOUDON — Loudon County is making changes to its banking strategy to increase return on investment, reduce fees and streamline the process by which bills are being paid, Trustee Chip Miller told county commissioners Monday.

The commission unanimously approved an amendment to create new checking accounts for disbursing county funds to vendors.

The new accounts with First National Bank will enable the county to move from the old warrant system to what is known as “true trustee checking,” which allows the county to eliminate the need for multiple transfers of funds between accounts, Miller said.

“It’s more streamlined and reduces the possibility of errors. We hope to have the system working by Dec. 15,” he said.

Miller said he has been upgrading many outdated systems and procedures in the trustee’s office, including moving from the DOS operating system to Windows earlier this year. He said he is working closely with the accounting office to implement the changes.

Miller also announced a new investment relationship with FSG Bank. In recent years municipalities such as Loudon County have had trouble finding banks that want to do business, he said.

“They require that we keep $18 million on deposit not making any interest, and they’re killing us with the fees,” Miller said.

The new relationship with FSG Bank will increase rate of return by as much as five times and eliminate a lot of fees, he said.

Many larger banks are not necessarily looking for relationships with small communities, said Peter Lindeman, senior vice president and director of treasury management at FSG Bank.

“The challenge is to get both security and a higher rate of return,” he said.

Because FSG Bank is focused on community banking and interested in attracting customers such as Loudon County, it is prepared to offer better terms than many larger banks, Lindeman said.

VW announces new SUV to be built in Chattanooga

July 14th, 2014

Volkswagen is adding production of a new crossover utility vehicle in Chattanooga, a move that will bring $600 million in new investment at the plant and create more than 2,000 new jobs in Tennessee.

In a joint announcement from Volkswagen’s headquarters in Wolfsburg and the plant in Chattanooga, the world’s No. 3 automaker said it would begin producing the new three-row crossover at the end of 2016.

VW

Come out and support “Relay for Life of Loudon County” at Loudon High School

May 3rd, 2014

Things are just getting started and local American Idol Star Laurel Wright is performing now!

Relay for LifeLaurel Wright

Today is the last day to EARLY VOTE

May 1st, 2014

Folks today is the last day to early vote. You can vote in downtown Lenoir City at the Roane State Community College or in Loudon at the Loudon County Election Commission Office until 6:00 pm today.

I would sincerely appreciate your vote.

Chip

 

Early voting ends Thursday..

April 29th, 2014

I would greatly appreciate your vote.

“The ballot is stronger than the bullet.” Abraham Lincoln

Your Vote Counts

Early voting is well underway…

April 25th, 2014

I have been visiting polling locations and encourage everyone to go vote early! Please call me or visit my website chipmillertrustee.com and click the link under elections if you need more information on dates or sample ballots. I sincerely appreciate your vote and support!!

EPA’s Wood-Burning Stove Ban Deals Blow to Rural Homes

April 15th, 2014

fireplace

The Environmental Protection Agency recently imposed restrictions on wood-burning stoves that will deal a blow to rural Americans who rely on wood to heat their homes.

Critics charge that the rule changes were enacted following pressure from environmental groups.

The EPA tightened restrictions in January on the level of fine airborne particulate emissions that wood-burning stoves can emit, from 15 micrograms per cubic meter to a maximum of 12 micrograms.

The EPA restrictions would ban the production and sale of the kinds of wood-burning stoves that compose 80 percent of those currently in use in the United States, Forbes reported.

“Although this is an ancient technology, it can provide a solution for high heating costs in many parts of the country,” Laura Huggins, a research fellow for both the Hoover Institution and the Property and Environment Research Center.

KAAR endorses Chip Miller!

April 11th, 2014

I just received notice this morning that Knoxville Area Association of Realtors has endorsed my campaign!

Chip,

I am pleased to announce that the Knoxville Area Association of Realtors (KAAR) Board of Directors and Governmental Affairs Committee have voted to officially endorse you in your race for Loudon County Trustee!
We are also happy to take part in any media/press events you have coming up so please let us know if there are events you would like representatives from our Association to attend.
Best regards,
Jennifer Roche
Governmental Affairs Director
Knoxville Area Association of Realtors
609 Weisgarber Road
Knoxville, TN  37919

Paying taxes a little easier..

April 7th, 2014
Paying taxes a little easier

 

Loudon County Trustee Chip Miller explains how the updated online system will affect residents. Miller said transitioning to eGovernment Solutions will allow residents to go online and find property taxes up to potentially 12 years ago.

Posted: Monday, April 7, 2014 11:23 am |Updated: 11:28 am, Mon Apr 7, 2014.

By Jeremy Nash jeremy.nash@news-herald.net

Loudon County Trustee’s Office staff members are gearing up for a transition that plans to boost operations more into the 21st century.

Trustee Chip Miller said an agreement was reached Friday with Knoxville-based eGovernment Solutions, a company that has provided software for trustees across the state, that would introduce a more streamlined and efficient service for customers.

Loudon County joins 20 other counties in Tennessee, including Blount, Anderson and Knox counties, he said.

Current services have been handled by Local Government Corporation, which once provided a “state-of-the-art” upgrade 24 years ago and helped lessen the office’s carbon footprint. The new system is taking that idea one step further, he said.

Residents will notice a number of improvements like integrating credit card payments both in the office and online, making payments over the phone, even billing via texting in the future, and providing real-time services for receipts, bills and tax years of parcel history.

“It’s going to change the way the trustee’s office works, and the way the constituents interact with the office,” Miller said. “We’ll have 800-numbers with call centers, and you’ll be able to go online and instead of just paying your bill at Tennessee trustee and that’s all you can do, you’ll be able to go back for the last 12 years and get a copy of your (property tax) receipt.”

Operations will remain as they are until the second or third week of May, when the office will then transition to the new system.

Miller said officials had already begun training online, but the real “hands-on training” would be when staff members began inputting residential information collected up through the middle or latter part of May. Waiting until toward the end of the month provides staff members a way to experience different scenarios, he said. Starting in May also gives the staff the chance to avoid encountering problems during tax season.

“When you go from the system we’re on to the system that we’re going to, there’ll be a learning curve,” Miller said. “Will it yield tremendous dividends? Untold. I mean, everybody that knows the system we’re on that’s gone to the system we’re going to are overwhelmed with how great it is and how much we’re going to like it.”

Miller and Chief Deputy Christy Crumley visited Blount County, which transitioned last summer, to gauge how eGov operated.

Blount County Trustee Scott Graves said the plan was to switch in April, but due to “unforeseen circumstances” with converting older data, operations under the new system did not begin until September.

“We didn’t actually begin to work with the system until like Sept. 1, and by that (time) we had sent out some bills and started collecting for 2013, and it was difficult to learn the system while during our busiest time of our collection period,” Graves said.

More improvements

Residents may notice a bar code on their property tax bills in October. Miller said this was a way to help identify residents’ property more easily when they come into pay.

“So when you come in, we’ll have a handheld scanner that will scan it, and it will pop up,” Miller said. “That’s not a huge deal if you’ve got one bill and you’re coming in to pay it. … It saves a few minutes, gets the taxpayer and the client out the door quicker.”

Scanned documents will then be kept on record in a PDF format and tagged to a property owner’s name for later use when needed, Miller said. The server- and web-based system will keep track of names and be able to auto-fill what an employee is typing similar to a search engine, something the current DOS-based system does not do, he said.

“We can make all these notes and save our time on the ground going back and forth to a filing cabinet, and there will be things that we still have to keep copies of, but as far as accessing them and the speed of service, we’ll be able to pull them up without having to get back up, same way with the adequate facility tax,” Miller said. “We’ll be able to pull up their building permit and ask, ‘Did they add to it? Did they take away from it? We saw it was issued Oct. 1. Do you need an extension?’”

Miller said eGov representatives were working to tailor to Loudon County’s needs, specifically addressing the adequate facility tax and the hotel-motel tax.

Crumley said eGov’s system would allow for bundling residential parcels together and provide an easier experience for staff members.

The office’s current system does not let officials bundle parcels together, instead making them write down each receipt number before moving onto the next parcel, Miller said.

“Because a lot of times they don’t bring their bill, and if they’ve got a whole bunch of parcels, then we have to look all of those up individually and this way you can just pull up like their name and just group them all together, and it’ll save it from year-to-year also,” Crumley said.

Residents paying online will also notice a drop in processing fees, including a 2.65 percent rate and $1 for credit card payments and 1.75 percent rate and $1 for electronic checks, Miller said.

“It’ll make for a more educated taxpayer and a happier taxpayer because they’ll have more information at their finger tips,” he said about the website’s changes.

An added level of security with eGov will allow the ability to keep track of an employee’s keystrokes on a server, that way the system can prevent employees from committing crimes, Miller said.

Miller said implementing eGov would help the trustee’s office be more efficient, timely and easy, both for customers and employees. It will also help lessen human error and save “tons of man power.”

Future upgrades?

This new system will give the county trustee’s office the option to accept property tax year-round, Miller said.

“That’s a big deal because a lot of people want to come in, and they want to pay by cash,” Miller said. “We can’t take a tax payment until the tax bill comes out and they have got a window of October through the end of February to make a current year tax payment. We will soon have the ability to take a year-round tax payment.”

Miller said year-round payments would be based on “good faith testament until the tax bill comes out” and would then be adjusted higher or lower.

Having residential bills be sent through a text message may also be a service the trustee’s office provides within five years, Miller said.

“I mean, mark my word within five years and probably a lot sooner than that, we’re going to be texting you your bill if you choose,” Miller said. “… I’ve tried to find some disadvantages to it. There’s not a disadvantage to it other than change.”

Jeremy Nash | News-Herald