Hillsborough County voters haven’t elected a new Tax Collector in 22 years. They will on Tuesday.
Democrat Nancy Millan and Republican TK Mathew are vying to replace Doug Belden, a Republican, who is retiring at the end of his term.
Millan holds a distinct edge.
The race pits Millan, a current executive in the Tax Collector’s office, against a small-business owner whose only experience with the office is as a former customer service representative.
Millan has been campaigning hard for the seat since last October while Mathew entered the race three months later in January.
Because Mathew didn’t face a Republican opponent in the August Primary Election, he largely ran a quiet campaign until late summer, even as Millan was building her name in the community in a hard-fought battle against former Hillsborough County School Board member April Griffin, a race Millan won with a commanding 61% of the vote.
Millan has also been commanding the money race. As of Oct. 16, she raised more than $364,000. Meanwhile, Mathew raised less than $135,000.
Belden, bucking party loyalty, also endorsed Millan, his office’s director of communications.
Meanwhile, Mathew faces an ethics complaint raising questions about his personal financial disclosures, which show less than $77,000 net worth. Yet Mathew has donated more than six figures to his own campaign.
Millan is running to further successes the Tax Collector’s office has already enjoyed under Belden’s leadership. Under his tenure, the office was the first in the state to earn the Governor’s Sterling Award for Performance and Efficiency.
If elected, Millan wants to add self-service kiosks to its offices to allow residents to access services where an in-person representative might not be necessary. The office has already employed five such kiosks with success. She also wants to utilize technology to create virtual offices to reduce the burden on retail locations.
The Tax Collector’s Office has 358 employees and operates on a $34 million budget. It collects tax revenue and other public revenue and distributes it to various county taxing authorities, an amount that this year surpassed $2 billion.
The office also oversees driver’s licenses and automobile registrations.
While Millan plans feasible improvements to the office, Mathew’s plans are a bit further out of reach. For example, his top priority is to reduce fees, but doing so requires action at the state or local level, not from the Tax Collector. Instead, Mathew’s plan would reduce third-party convenience fees on credit card processing.
While that seems reasonable, Hillsborough County already has a lower fee than surrounding counties. Its 2.35% convenience fee is already lower than Pasco and Pinellas counties where the fees are 2.5% and 2.95%, respectively. Working with credit card companies to further reduce those costs seems a tough climb.
On some of his more feasible plans, Mathew wants to expand hours of operations and add locations at MacDill Air Force Base and the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital, services that would be welcomed, yet costly.
The race between the two is countywide where Democrats have a voter registration advantage of more than 73,000 voters among 920,860 registered voters.