Newly elected Montezuma County Treasurer Ellen Black has been too busy to move into her new office.
Black had already been working for the office at 140 W. Main St. in Cortez since 2015, managing deeds, tax payments and other office duties.
She ran unopposed in the November election for the Treasurer position, replacing Sherry Dyess, who served three four-year terms.
“We have a small team and keep very busy,” Black said. “I’m still working out of my old desk, but the plan is to get settled into the new office.”
Before starting at the Treasurer’s Office, Black had a 20-year career in real estate title industry, working in Idaho, New Mexico and Colorado.
“I have good experience, and look forward to keeping this office running smoothly as it has been,” she said.
The county treasurer is responsible for mailing approximately 23,000 property tax statements to owners each year, collecting property taxes and distributing taxes to the taxing authorities, such as cities, towns, the county, school districts, fire districts and special districts.
The office also receives all monies paid to county departments and maintains the accounting of those funds.
Black said that in order to streamline operations, the office is developing a process to accept online tax payments. The service will be available soon, she said.
“We are testing the system and doing the training. It will make it easier for the taxpayer to pay their taxes,” she said.
The treasurer is also the Public Trustee office for the county, which serves the public as an unbiased administrator of two processes: Release of Deed of Trust, and Foreclosure on Deed of Trust.
One aspect of Treasurer’s Office is managing property tax lien sales. In Colorado, unpaid property taxes on real estate are sold at a public tax lien auction, held every November. The owner of the property tax lien pays the taxes owed but does not own the property.
The assessed owner of the property has a three-year redemption period in which to pay lien holder the back taxes, plus interest.
“Most investors participate in the sale because the 11 percent interest rate is higher than average,” Black said. “As with any investment, there is a certain degree of risk.”
If the assessed property owner does not pay back the taxes, the lien holder can apply for a treasurer’s deed and gain ownership of the property. But, usually the property owner pays back the taxes, Black said.
The Treasurer’s Office also records and helps to process foreclosures. In Montezuma and Dolores counties, there are about typically about 30 to 40 foreclosures per year. In 2010, at the height of the housing crash, there were 132 foreclosures.
Black has a staff of three and operates the office on a 2019 budget of $258,561.
“I’ve been working closely with Sherry Dyess on the transition, and she has been sharing her knowledge of the job,” she said.