Welcome. It is Albuquerque Real Estate Talk with Tego and Tracy Venturi. I don’t have Tracy today, but I have a very special guest that I’m going to introduce here in just a moment. It is Saturday morning and it’s Episode 442, I believe, is what we’re on here in mid April 2023. If you want to reach our real estate office, we are at 505-448-8888. We’re the Venturi Realty Group with Real Broker here in Albuquerque. Wow, do I have a special guest? I’m really honored to have you here, Madam Treasurer, Bernalillo County Treasurer, Nancy Bearce with The Treasures’s Office. The Treasures Office. Yeah. You guys reached out to us, so I really appreciate that. It’s that time of year. It’s tax time for property taxes. We were joking in the lobby here. It’s like you’re the mean tax collector for property taxes. But we’re going to get into a lot of information about that, what the treasure does, what your role is, how people can pay taxes, what people can do if they have issue paying their property taxes, all this stuff. So that’s what we’re breaking down today. Anyway, welcome,
Thank you for having me.
Or Treasurer Bearce, I should say, would be more appropriate and more official.
So how long have you been county treasureer now?
I am halfway through my second term, so six and a half years now. Wow.
That’s awesome. That’s great. 2016, I think I saw was when you came into the office?
January first, 2017. I ran in 2016.
Got it. So what inspired you to be the finances person? How did you get into this whole financial world?
Well, it really came to me through another elected who said, You know, Nancy, you have a history in public service of fixing departments. I think we’re going to need that with this office. I do. I have a long history since returning back to my home state, working at APS, working with the state. I saw that. I’ve always been very good at passing on my audits, defending budgets in front of the legislature, all of those things that you have to do. It was really just asked of me, which is very surprising.
Great. I said, Okay.
Speaking of what you do, what is the role of the treasurer? Because I know at least in the realtor community, there’s confusion between what the treasure does versus the assessor. You both play in property and then the clerk, too. You, all three of your roles overlap into real estate somehow. But what’s the treasure’s role directly?
That’s what’s so fascinating about it and why actually the three of us, the clerk, the assessor and I are elected is because we are in the constitution as officers and so we are elected by the public. But my role specifically is in state statute, the constitution, and the Bernalillo County Charter that we now have. I say it very, very closely. I don’t go on too much about it, but I collect all the property taxes for all the public entities that have taxing authority in the county.
It. It’s not just.
Bernalillo County. Go through the list. Obviously, it’s like APS.
Aps, University UNM Hospital, CNM, any of the public charter schools as well.
Let’s see, CNM. You think also of…
I think of like a MAFCA and Middle Rio Grande.
Conservation district. A MAFCA, the Conservation district, if you live close to the river. But there is one also in the East Mountains. T here’s the Astantia Soil and Water Conservation district. Okay. And then also…
You get out there. Well, I know the county goes.
All the way to… The county goes way.
Out there. What is that? Mountain Valley Road. Yeah.
Interesting. Okay. And then also some goes back to the state because they also take out bonds and they have to collect public money as well.
So your job is to basically manage, collect and manage and distribute the funds of the county.
And there’s the other piece. The last piece is I’m the banker for the county. I see. I have that relationship with the bank of opening all the accounts, making sure that the correct people can sign on those accounts as well as the investments.
Yeah. So if it was a Corporation, you’d be the CFO, basically, or the controller or something like that. Would that be fair to say?
Well, it’s interesting because there’s also a deputy director of finance in the county. I don’t do the accounting, I don’t pay bills, like accounts receivable. I see. Okay. So we strictly limit it to I’m the check and balance to that piece in the county.
Okay, this is my big hardball question here. Yes, sir. How’s the financial health of Bernalillo County right now?
We look fantastic. The news was let late last week or early this week that for our credit rating, we got that and continue to have the Triple A rating for bonds. And we’ve had that all the years that I’ve been there.
Let me ask you, when you came in, was there some cleanup to be done?
There was a little bit of cleanup to be done and a little bit of guidance on how things should run. We really wanted transparency, accountability. Ethics was high on the list. But for me personally, I knew there was a break in trust between taxpayers, the public, as well as the commissioners, and really needed to work on bridging that relationship, letting them know who I was, what I came into the office with, and expectations so we could continue to form a really good working relationship because I think that had broken down.
Yeah. Well, it’s always trust, right? It’s trust in every relationship. Absolutely. Yeah. I just want to remind people, you’re listening to Albuquerque Real Estate Talk on KIVA, 1600 AM, as well as we play on YouTube and Facebook. We’re talking with the Bernalillo County Treasurer, Nancy Bears. A gain, great to have you here, Treasurer Bears. How is the funds… Part of your role is protecting the funds that you collect, correct? Or at least making sure they’re safe. So how do you do that? How do you manage the funds, basically?
And we call that.
Being a fiduciary.
The fiduciary. Right. So I work on behalf of protecting that money. I don’t make any decisions that would be against that or would give me more money. No, that’s not the role. We came up in the office my first year with what I call the three bucket strategy with the investments. It’s very much based on everybody’s household budget, usually. First is how much do I need this month to pay my bills? That’s your first bucket, right? Your second bucket is how much do I need for the next year? Because we know homeowners insurance, car insurance is often six months at a time, just like taxes are. So how much do I need for the year?
Then everything else is covered. So that goes into our reserves. Reserves are very much mandated in state law of how much a minimum is that we have to have in reserves in case anything happened. And that’s for any county in New Mexico. And then Bernalillo County, on top of that, adds another 5% to half.
So how I invest is all in state statute. There’s probably about 50 pages on investments because we have a lot of things in New Mexico. We have the state investment council, we have the state treasureer. But then for me in the county, I have very prescriptive things I can invest in. It’s not anything you and I can invest in, like an IRA, a mutual fund. No, they have to be very safe, very secure. Usually, they’re US treasuries, fixed income where I’m going to get this much back. But it’s very safe. It’s backed by the US government, so we’re not going to lose any money on that. Yeah..
So it’s protecting those funds because you have bills to pay.
We have bills to pay and we don’t want to lose anybody’s hard earned money because that’s what taxes are. Yeah.
They are. Yes. And that’s where the trust comes in between us. You’re going to trust me that I’m going to invest this and use it in a public way that is good for all of us.
You know what I realized is it’s actually April 15 when this is playing, but that’s not the taxes we’re talking about. We’re talking about property taxes, county property taxes. And so let’s talk about that. We are in second half collection season, I guess, I don’t know if that’s what we call it, for 2022.
Which is very confusing. This is 2023. Why are you still collecting taxes in ’22?
Talk about that whole paid arrears and how that works because we deal with that in real estate when we’re talking to people. It’s like, Okay, no. Well, wait. No, you haven’t paid that yet. No, it’s the next year. It’s like, No, actually, you haven’t paid that yet. That’s because it’s paid arrears, right?
Right. It’s paid to us in the rears. Maybe the homeowner is paying it every month if they have a mortgage with an escrow account, then it is being paid in that sense. But when it comes to us, it only comes in those two six, what is it, biannual payments? That’s because, again, things are in arrears. When you think of the calendar year, January through June is first half, and those are paid in November and December. Second half that we’re in now, those are the July through December taxes that get paid April and May.
Taxes, I saw the video you have on your website. By the way, it’s Bernco. G ov treasure is your site. If you have a mortgage, I think most people know that… Listen to this, we talk about real estate all the time and most people understand that there’s an escrow set aside for property taxes and insurance when you’re paying your mortgage. But if you don’t have a mortgage, you need to pay your bill. You have to pay the county. I know that the second half with just due, it becomes late or delinquent when?
May 11th. Okay. It’s due April 10th by statute, but they give you a 30 day grace in state law. You have till May 10th to get it into us. We do accept postmarks if you drop it in the mail. But if it comes to May 11th, after midnight, then you get some late fees put on that.
Do you have an idea how much that is just off the top? I do. Is it percentage? Okay.
Yeah, there’s two fees. One is a penalty that’s 1 % of whatever you owe. And then there’s interest, which is also 1 % of whatever you owe. I see. So it’s not a huge amount. It’s not like a credit card charges you because we’re government. We’re not in it to make profit. We’re in it just to say, You’re late.
Don’t you want to pay us? I have to say on some land that I own that I forgot to pay and it wasn’t a big dollar amount. I was like, O ops, but it’s like, Oh, that wasn’t too bad. It was like $3. Because it was a small tax bill because it was just vacant land, low value vacant land. And speaking of, we have a lot of vacant land in Bernalillo County that’s individually owned, correct?
We have some.
Not rural. It’s not like Sandoval where you have whatever 80,000 individual lots.
And we’re a smaller area county, too, like Los Alamos.
Oh, true. Compared to Sandoval, which is sprawling.
Yeah, it goes all the way up to San Juan County, over to Santa Fe.
Yeah, it’s huge. Yeah, it’s huge.
Paying your bill. That’s how the taxes are in those two biannual payments. But when you think of the calendar for taxes, they’re just like federal income taxes. They start January first and go through December 30th of the year. But remember, and this is where I’ll flip to what the assessor does, is they have to value properties on January first. Who’s the owner? Where’s it located? Do I have to go out and look at it again? Maybe somebody’s added an addition, whatever that is. So that’s they have to get all that work done. Then April is your notice of value that you get for, Okay, how much has my value gone up? Do I like that? Do I think that’s right? Should I protest it? Then all that takes time if there’s protests of the assessor because they have a protest board, usually through August.
I’ll tell you, most people that have a property are getting those notices of value or have got them already for this calendar year.
Because we have a new assessor, they did ask for an extension from the state, so they’re going out.
May first. That makes sense because I’ve received them for S and I own one little property down in Valencia, and I’ve already gotten those, but I did not get Burn Co. Yet, so that makes sense. Okay.
They asked for an extension. That’s important, your notice of values, because once you get that notice of value, you’ve only got 30 days to apply for a property value exemption. There’s about four or five exemptions that reduces the value of your property.
So if you’re at $100,000 in the value, but you’re a veteran, that’s a $4,000 reduction.
Then you go down to what is that, 96,000?
Yeah, got it.
And they’re great because that ultimately will lower your property tax.
Yeah, your tax burden. So again, it is that season right now. If somebody needs to pay their taxes, I saw on your website you guys have a bunch of different ways people can pay their taxes, right? Do you want to just run through that real quick?
Sure. And we really focused on that was, what can we do to better that payment system? So you can pay online and online you can pay by credit card, debit card and echecks. You can actually open your cheque book, put in the routing number in your account and it’ll be online. So that’s fantastic.
I will tell you, the new software, I don’t know when did that come in? That’s been a year or so, a little over a year, right?
Two years ago.
Two years ago. That is really nice. People haven’t I’m a software person and a tech person, so I was very impressed. I know Sandoval County has it now as well. It’s the same platform, more or less, and you can see all your properties if you own multiple properties like myself, since I’m a property investor. I can see all my properties. I can see what was paid, what wasn’t paid. One thing that was a flag for me this year is one of my mortgages, they didn’t take care of paying it. So it was like, Oh, you guys messed up. So I had to reach out to them. It’s because they transferred mortgage servicers and it just got lost in the shuffle. But yeah, it’s a great platform. That’s good. Thank you. And then you can… I think Rio Grande Credit Union, right? Yes, Rio.
Grande Credit Union. Any branch, you can bring your money and that coupon or a copy of your tax bill. Put it in an envelope and just take it to them. They’ll get it to us on your behalf. That’s great. Then we have, what is it, five or six drop boxes that you can bring, again, in an envelope, your payment and your little invoice and drop it in. Usually, they’re at community centers, but I do have one down at City Hall where we used to be. We left it there because most people liked it there.
Then, of course, if you want to come in person to our new building at 415 Silver, right across from PNM, because many people like to pay in cash and we don’t take cash in the drop boxes. Rio Grande, you can get a cashier’s check and then drop it in and hand it to them. There’s lots of different ways.
That’s great. Well, I’ll say it because you probably won’t, but there’s no excuse. There’s no reason to say, Oh, I don’t know how to pay. No, there’s plenty of ways to pay. There’s plenty ways to pay. Let’s talk about somebody that maybe has some hardship and they’re not able to pay their property taxes. What should they do?
Definitely call us. Don’t be embarrassed, don’t be ashamed because we all get behind on something. Especially coming out of COVID. Some of us aren’t up to speed yet and are having difficulty. D efinitely call us and talk to us about the options. I have a whole department for delinquency accounts. They all work with you about, Well, what is your budget? What can we put down for monthly payments to get you paid up?
If you have to pay those late fees, let’s get you budgeting some money so that we can get your account paid off.
I don’t know if you have or… If somebody stops paying their property taxes altogether, what’s the process? Obviously, if you stop paying your mortgages, there’s a foreclosure process. If you stop paying your property taxes, is it the same thing? Is there a foreclosure process or how does that work?
There is not a foreclosure process. By state law, again, very prescriptive, we have up to three years to, quite frankly, badger taxpayers, phone calls, letters about, You still owe, you still owe. Come on, call me. Let’s get this going. But at that three year mark, we have to turn that account, that property, over to the state. T hat is the state tax and revenue department, and they take over the collections. T hey’ll collect and they’ll still give us the tax portion, but they will keep the penalty and interest for their efforts. T hey’ll also charge $125 fee for their collections. The part that really is their authority is that they can auction property.
Yeah, they take the property.
They can take it. T hat’s in a way a foreclosure.
That’s what happened. I don’t know if it actually becomes a property of the state, but basically it becomes the right of the state to sell it and collect whatever they can get for that property. I’ve seen that, especially with some vacant land around the state where it has very low value and people just maybe even forgot that they owned it. We see that once in a while.
We see a lot of people that die that don’t have relatives to take it. They don’t even have an estate or a will that says, I’ll donate it to a charity, nothing like that. It just sits there. We don’t know necessarily that they’ve passed. There’s nobody to notify us. There’s no family member. We just have to dig around in the legals and the obituaries a lot of times to find out. And that’s the assessor, again, that’s trying to locate that owner. Interesting. The other thing we have, though, that’s really I really want to talk to people about is, and you started to tell me much on it, and I was like, I want to say, is those people that don’t have mortgages, they’ve already paid, but they still have to pay taxes. We have a great program for people that are on fixed incomes that just need help. They always used to have a mortgage and that’s how they managed it. They need help in managing that process. What we say is, okay, let’s divide it out. And especially if you’re on a fixed income, you’re an elderly person, you’re only living on social security, maybe a little IRA money.
But it’s called the Monthly Payment Program.
And we take the estimated taxes from your notice of value, spread it out over 10 months. Well, actually, we spread it over nine months because it’s an estimate. And then that 10th month, we true up what you owe for that. So 10 payments is much more manageable.
Yeah. So you help them get them on a payment plan. That makes so much sense.
We send them coupons and say, just like your tax bill, there’s a coupon or the mortgage, just drop it in there every month. Mail it, come down to us, drop it in a Dropbox. Those kinds of things go online and pay it. And that we found is very, very helpful. We have probably over 4,500 people on it.
That brings up a question. Do you know offhand how many properties you have to collect property taxes on?
Yes. We sent out just over 261,000 tax bills. Now, that’s the universe. That’s nonresidential and residential. That’s everybody. With that, we are the largest county that sends out the most properties.
That’s what we have to.
Collect on. I just want to remind people we’re talking to Treasure Bearce. Bearce, I said it wrong. I know. You probably get that a lot. You can say.
Treasurer Nancy if you want.
Treasure Nancy from Bernalillo County. Glad to have her here. We’re going to wrap up here really quick. I want to talk about scams. I guess just like everywhere where there’s money involved, there’s going to be scams. What things should people be on the lookout for?
Gosh, definitely look for those emails that just pop up to you offering you a great deal. Or the one that we’ve most seen is mortgage insurance or even property tax insurance, title insurance.
Property tax insurance?
Yeah, I don’t get it either. But just very odd things. Again, if it’s an email that you don’t recognize, don’t answer it, delete it, or call the police and report that you’ve got something here that you don’t understand and don’t think. Call our office. We’re up to date on our scams as well.
If people want to get more engaged with what the county treasurer does, I guess what I’m looking for is what type of transparency is there from the county if somebody wants to know what’s going on with the finances in the county? What can people do?
Oh, wow. A lot. Come out to our quarterly board of finance meeting, and I report out everything, the operations, because we average 10,000 calls every month. Oh, my gosh. We’re a very busy department.
Probably this time of year, too. And especially this time of year.
I report out on the investments, how we’re doing on that. I have an investment advisor who’s little bit also there to talk, providing economic forecasting, what’s going on. T hat’s clearly important right now. It’s the full package. The other thing is I do have an advisory investment committee and on that committee, there is one public person that’s on, a community person. It’s filled right now, I’m sorry, but that’s always there if you really have a burning desire.
The point is the transparency is there.
Transparency is there. We have a transparency portal. I have performance measures I have to meet. Also, we have an internal audit every year. We’re one of the departments that has it every year. T hen we have a full blown audit, I think, every two years. We put that on our transparency portal. We also put it on ours, the burnco.gov/treasurer. You do have to hunt around for it, but if you don’t want to do that, just call me, 468-7031.
You got that? There you go. There it is.
Yeah, we want to talk to you.
Just to wrap this up, you’ve been doing this now for a few years. What do you find most satisfying of this role now that you’ve been in for a few years as being the the county treasure?
For me, it’s the education piece. Like you said, lots of people don’t know what I do, and we do a lot. Being the banker, collecting, dispersing, investing, it’s like peeling an onion. And you just all those things all have procedures and processes. I love going out and meeting people. I do introduce myself always as the least favorite elected official. I might be tied with the sheriff. I don’t know.
You might have some competition out there. I’ll just say anyway.
But yeah, when they see me, they’re like, Oh, no, the tax collector. I’m like, But I’m here to help. I have the information that can help you. Let me tell you about it. You can also email me treasurer@Bernco.Gov. And yes, you will get me when you email me. I answer all the emails. That’s great. So engage. That’s what I want.
Well, I appreciate what you do. I know public service is a calling for a lot of people because it’s probably… Well, I think the reality is there’s probably more financial rewarding type career path for some, but we really appreciate what you do. I really appreciate you reaching out to me and having the opportunity to talk to you about this has been super educational for me. I hope for people listening, what the treasure does, and I’m sure it’s very similar around all counties in a certain way, especially in the state, because you said it is by state statute, a lot of the stuff that you are required to do, correct? Correct.
Whether you’re Lee County or Taos County, we all have the same 40 or 50 state statutes that we have to apply equitably to everyone.
Again, if somebody wants to get a hold of the Bernalillo County treasure, it’s Bernco.Gov/treasurer or just Google it. Again, if they want to reach out to you, how can they connect with your office? What’s the phone number? I guess would be.
The best one. 505-468-7031 or email me treasurer@Bernco.Gov.
Treasurer Nancy, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.
Thank you so much. Have me.
Back, please. I’d love to. No, that’d be great. We only.
Scratch the surface.
I know. But you know what we could do some time. You know what’d be interesting is to get you, the clerk, and the assessor together and maybe do some event with the realtor community, which I’m very engaged with because I think it would be super helpful. I’m in.
Great. All right. Thanks, everybody. Have a great weekend.