Smooth Transition for Winters in Role as Treasurer/Collector
Mar 31, 2016 06:00AM ● Published by Kenneth Hamwey
Treasurer/Collector Carol Winters
Carol Winters has been on the job as Bellingham’s treasurer/collector for three months, and her transition into that role has been smooth. Her background and the attributes needed for success no doubt have been a big plus for the Boston native in carrying out the department’s functions.
After working in the banking industry for six years, Winters switched gears and became Hopedale’s assistant town collector. After five years in Hopedale, she worked as Dover’s assistant treasurer/collector, a move made because she “was eager to learn more about the treasurer’s function.” After three years in Dover, the Franklin resident then took the reins as assistant treasurer in Bridgewater, where she worked for six years before coming to Bellingham last January.
“Carol has 15 years of experience in municipal finance,” said Bellingham’s Town Administrator Denis Fraine. “She started from the ground up and that kind of experience is invaluable. When she was appointed, we felt she was well-prepared to fulfill the role.”
Winters, a mother of three adult children, is acutely aware that her position requires some necessary attributes, and she lists three that she believes are key ingredients for her job. “Good listening skills are required, and that also means being objective,” she said. “Being able to follow through on a specific issue with good understanding of the resulting ramifications is a must, along with being able to make appropriate decisions for the public and the town.”
The duties of a collector basically involve processing payments and crediting residential accounts. Once checks are deposited, the revenue then becomes part of Bellingham’s general fund. In her role as treasurer, Winters and her department deposit municipal and school receipts (sports user fees, for example), with credits to specific accounts before the finance department pays bills associated with those accounts.
“Residential tax payments are the basis for funding and running town government,” Winters said. “School and municipal expenses, like salaries, snow plowing, road repair, public safety and trash collection are just a few examples of what tax payments take care of. The roles of collector and treasurer are so linked in carrying out the funding of the town.”
Winters replaced Grace Devitt, who retired after 20+ years in both roles. While Devitt was on the job, advances in technology became more and more prevalent, so Winters points to on-line banking as a big plus and a good example of how residents can now pay bills.
“Auto excise bills can now be paid on the town’s website, www.Bellinghamma.org,” Winters noted. “When on the home page, click on the link to on-line payment. There you would enter your bill number and the year of payment. Residents can pay by credit card or E-checking by entering the bank’s routing number and the individual’s account number.”
When the new fiscal year begins in July, residents will be able to pay their real estate tax bill online by following a similar procedure. Winters said that online municipal payments will involve a minimal fee.
Winters was recommended for her position by Fraine and appointed last December by the Board of Selectmen. She reports to Chris Laviolette, the town’s Chief Financial Officer. “Chris has been a big help,” Winters said. “He assisted me greatly when we implemented online payments.”
Dealing with a plethora of numbers and an inordinate amount of math, Winters says she doesn’t mind the analytical aspect of her job; and she relishes the sense of community purpose. “I like being a public servant,” she said. “It’s a paying job, but there are opportunities when we can help a resident solve a dilemma. I like that aspect. If someone needs a payment plan for a tax bill, we’ll try to ease their burden by working with them.”
If there is a downside to her position, it’s state regulations. Winters agrees they’re necessary evils. “We have to adhere to lots of guidelines,” she said; “and we get audited annually. Any municipal operation has to be under the umbrella of state regulators.”
Technology has cut the treasurer/collector’s office from eight employees to four. Winters appreciates the way her staff has helped in her transition. “The staff includes Elaine Szamreta, Dan McGlaughlin, Michelle Nowlan and Lindsey Gentile,” she said. “Elaine and Dan deal with the collector’s side while Michelle and Lindsey are assistant treasurers. Michelle focuses on payroll; Lindsey provides support and is the acting treasurer/collector in my absence.”
Winters understands fully the need to collect taxes to provide services. As she says: “A healthy town with quality services has to be paid for.”
And that’s one reason she’s on the job—for the greater good of the community she so ably serves.