Aiken County Auditor Charles Barton has been on the job for about a year now, and he seems pretty confident in his position.
Barton was elected auditor during the 2012 election and officially appointed by Gov. Nikki Haley on Nov. 19 of last year after long-serving Aiken County Auditor Cyrus Spradley resigned. His elected four-year term started on July 1. He said the employees of his department have been key in making the transition into the job a much easier one, and he has learned a lot in the past year.
The responsibilities of the County auditor include the taxation of personal property, such as motor homes, campers, trailers, motorcycles, watercraft and watercraft motors, merchant's furniture, fixtures and equipment, aircraft and manufacturer's real and personal property.
Barton said the County just completed the real estate and merchants billing for the month. He said 100,722 real estate bills were sent out. He estimates roughly 150,000 vehicle renewals annually.
Barton said the County is currently working to correct an issue in which more than 5,000 tax bills that went out have been returned as “unknown address” over the last several years. More than 700 mobile home bills have also been sent to unknown owners. He said he is working to fix that issue and is making some headway.
Barton said he decided to run for the position after County Council was made aware of an issue in which several people appeared to be paying only 80 percent of their property taxes. These individuals or entities, at one point, appealed their property taxes. During an Administrative Committee meeting in 2012, Barton brought up the concern, and the issue was the accounts appeared to have not been updated to indicate when those appeals were settled.
Barton said the assessor's office has worked diligently to clear up the problem to avoid future discrepancies and there seems to be some improvement.
“I decided I wanted to pursue the position to see if I could help solve some of those issues,” Barton said.
Barton said he has taken time to go over the different laws and has reached out to attorneys with the Department of Revenue whenever he has any questions. He said the dedicated staff of his department have continued working hard since he took office.
“I can't say enough about the employees,” Barton said. “I don't say this braggingly, but I think this is one of the best groups of any department.”
Barton, who served on County Council for 10 years, said he misses serving in that position and, at times, wishes he could vote on certain issues.
“But all in all, I feel like we still have a good group on Council,” Barton said. “I'm very satisfied with where I'm at now. I will try to continue to offer the best of service to the public.”
Amy Banton is the County reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the publication since May 2010.