Challenger Asking Tough Questions Of Longtime Treasurer

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Don Ascoli, like all of the challengers in the more obscure countywide races, faces an uphill battle against incumbent Deborah Savage, but he has questions voters may want to hear. Why doesn’t the Treasurer’s office have a location in the northern part of the county? Why does she invest the county’s money in another state? Why don’t the investment funds have a greater rate of return?

Incumbent Deborah Savage says she loves working with the public. She wishes more would come by her office in Globe. But that is what irks Ascoli.

“It’s an over two-hour drive to Globe each way for Payson residents,” said Ascoli.

He said other rural counties have multiple offices. He cited Navajo County as an example. That county has two treasurer’s offices due to the county’s vast size.

With the majority of the population and tax dollars residing in the northern part of the county, Ascoli does not understand why residents have no Treasurer’s office in the north. “Every other county office has a northern office,” said Ascoli.

Ascoli wanted to see if he could pay his taxes in Payson instead of through the post office as letters can get lost and damaged thereby delaying delivery.

The treasurer’s office told him to go to the assessor’s satellite office in Payson. After dropping off his payment, he received a receipt.

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Don Ascoli

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Deborah Savage

But he wanted to know how the Payson office sent the check. “They told me, ‘We drop it into an envelope, walk across the street and mail it.’ I could do that myself!” he said.

A few months later, he went to see if the assessor’s office would take his check again and on the desk was a sign that stated, “Due to a policy change the assessor’s office will no longer be accepting tax payments on behalf of the treasurer’s office. There are envelopes provided in your tax payment to mail them.”

When asked about this policy, Assessor Dale Hom said he was sure that was not true now.

Savage said she is happy to work with property owners on their taxes. If they cannot pay the full amount, she will make payment arrangements.

But Payson residents have to call her office, or drive to Globe to speak to representatives from her office.

Ascoli has years of business experience. During those years in his career, he had to manage finances. “My financial expertise and corporate savvy will ensure best business practices are used in the Treasurer’s office,” he wrote on campaign material.

He has already started to research the treasurer’s office practices, which includes investing county funds not used on a daily basis.

Ascoli said his research shows that the county has about $67 million invested split between two funds: one with a Wells Fargo branch in Phoenix, the other with Institutional Capital Management based in Colorado.

Two things about this arrangement bother Ascoli. First, the combined return on the two funds barely reaches 1 percent. Second, half of the money is in another state.

“We’re paying for services out of the state,” he said of the management fee the Colorado company gathers.

He would rather see Gila County place its investment funds with the Arizona Treasury. When he researched the returns from the state treasury, he found out the returns ranged from 1.2 to 1.7 percent.

“The extra tenth of a percent return could pay for another employee, who could work in a northern office,” said Ascoli.

When asked to respond to Ascoli’s concerns, Savage said, “I do not wish to comment on what Don Ascoli has found. I do not want to give him ammunition (for the campaign).”

Regardless of his concerns, Ascoli will have to overcome the incumbent’s advantage. Most voters would rather stick with an incumbent for a little known office that has few controversies than attempt someone new.

Ascoli understands this and has hit the county with campaign signs from Globe to Payson. During the county fair in Globe, Ascoli moved his trailer to the fairgrounds to campaign. He has taken out ads in all county radio stations and newspapers.

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