The third time was indeed the charm.
Yolo County on Tuesday voted to eliminate the elected office of auditor-controller/treasurer-tax collector and replace it instead with a finance director appointed by the Board of Supervisors. Twice before — in 1986 and 1998 — voters defeated similar proposals.
Measure H won comfortably, 66 percent to 34 percent, with all precincts reporting.
With the measure’s passage, current Auditor-Controller/Treasurer-Tax Collector Howard Newens — who has held the office since 2002 and favored the change — will serve out the remainder of his term until December 2014. At that point, a director of finance will be appointed by the supervisors.
The move essentially combines the fiscal functions currently performed by the county administrator’s office — budget issues and financial planning — with those of Newens’ office, which includes most countywide accounting, auditing, collections, cash management and investment activity.
County supervisors, who voted unanimously to put the measure on the ballot, argued that the move would increase county efficiency and save money. Specifically, they said, consolidation of budgeting within a single department of finance would eliminate positions and save hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.
Opponents, however, argued that the change will eliminate independent oversight of the county’s fiscal operations.
Kumar Sah, a Yolo County resident and CPA who works for the state controller’s office, said an appointed finance director will be beholden to supervisors, rather than to voters.
“To be appointed by the very people they are supposed to keep an eye on makes for a lack of check and balance,” Sah said before the election. “With most appointed positions, their allegiance tends to always be with the people who appoint them.”
Sah was resigned to the outcome on Tuesday night, saying he’d done his best to educate voters “and the bottom line for me is whichever way the people decide, I’m happy with that.”
Supervisor Jim Provenza of Davis attributed the success of Measure H to board members’ “straightforward and honest presentation of the issues.”
His colleague, Supervisor Matt Rexroad of Woodland, agreed.
“I would like to think part of it is confidence in the current board,” he said, adding that supervisors met with stakeholders throughout the county and all signed off on the plan.
Measure H, he added, is to the benefit of county taxpayers, not supervisors.
— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at email@example.com or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy