SOUTH BEND -- The Republican and Democratic candidates for county treasurer and two of the four candidates for recorder and surveyor, both Democrats, participated in a public forum Wednesday at Indiana University South Bend.
Gerard Arthus, the Republican candidate for county treasurer, pledged to cut the treasurer's salary by $5,000, or return $5,000 in salary to the county, and place a moratorium on county tax sales if elected.
"I think people in government need to set an example, and that example is that people in government should live within the taxpayers' means," Arthus said of cutting or returning part of the treasurer's salary.
Of halting county tax sales, he said, "No government has the right to take people's property without due process." He suggested the county instead place a lien on delinquent properties.
Arthus also pledged to improve the treasurer's website and make more public information available online. He called efforts thus far to do so "a joke."
"I would move us into the digital age -- not help move us or continue to move us," he said. "It should have been done years ago."
For his part, Mike Kruk, the Democratic candidate for county treasurer, pledged to move toward electronic billing of property taxes and to continue the cycle of property tax sales.
On the topic of tax sales, Kruk said, "We went four years in the county without a tax sale, and as a result we lost a lot of tax revenue."
He said the function of a tax sale is not to take property away from people, but to encourage people who are delinquent in paying property taxes to pay up.
He cited as an example the Chase Tower downtown. The owner of the building paid about $345,000 in back taxes on Tuesday to avoid today's scheduled tax sale.
Kruk said he would also look at ways to get a better return on the county's investments, possibly by taking advantage of a new state law that allows local governments to invest money up to five years instead of two years.
As far as making more public information available online, there are websites in operation now that already provide property tax information, "so I couldn't see the treasurer's office duplicating things that are already out there," he said.
If anything, he said, he might consider posting investment information on the website.
Incumbent John McNamara, the Democratic candidate for county surveyor, pledged to continue to make more public information available online in the surveyor's office.
Asked how he might improve the office if re-elected, he said, "I think I do a good job now ... but we could be more efficient" in terms of customer service.
Incumbent Phil Dotson, the Democratic candidate for county recorder, said his top priority if re-elected would be to continue to digitize the thousands of county records, including deeds and mortgages, preserved by his office.
Dotson also trumpeted an "e-file" system implement during his time in office that allows people to obtain copies of mortgages online, saving time and money for the office and the person requesting the record.
Cynthia Bachota, the Republican candidate for county recorder, and Richard Ziegler Sr., the Republican candidate for county surveyor, did not participate in Tuesday's forum.
The American Democracy Project at IUSB hosted the forum in partnership with the university's Political Science Club and the local League of Women Voters.
A forum featuring the candidates for county probate judge is set for 6 p.m. next Thursday inside the University Grill on campus.
Staff writer Erin Blasko: