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Gazette Staff

Yellowstone County commissioners again are seeking to reorganize and consolidate the duties of elected officials, hoping to improve government efficiency.

Commissioners have scheduled a public hearing at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, June 10, to consider two resolutions. One would direct the county treasurer to assume the duties of the former county assessor's office. The other would direct the clerk and recorder to assume the duties of the county surveyor.

Clerk and Recorder Tony Nave took over the assessor's duties in October of 2000. The consolidation was made possible by the retirement of County Assessor Max Lenington. Since then, Lenington has come out of retirement and last year was elected county treasurer.

In January, County Surveyor Jeff Reineking resigned from the post to which he was elected in the 2002 general election. Reineking, who operates a private surveying business, said he didn't have enough time to fulfill his duties with the county and to continue his private business.

After Reineking's resignation, commissioners decided to assign the surveyor's duties to the clerk and recorder. But commissioners then decided it made sense to take the assessor's duties away from the clerk and recorder and assign them to the treasurer.

A bill passed by the 1993 Legislature allowed counties to consolidate the assessor's office with the state Department of Revenue or to retain an elected assessor. Since then, most counties have eliminated the assessor as an elected office.

Lenington said it makes sense to combine the duties of the treasurer and assessor. A big part of the assessor's job is handling applications for property-tax relief from elderly people who meet the state's income guidelines, and it's appropriate for the treasurer to handle that function, he said. Each year the county processes about 100 requests for tax relief from qualifying seniors, he said.

Lenington ran for both assessor and treasurer in 1998. At the time, a county attorney's opinion concluded he couldn't legally hold both elected offices.

He was elected assessor and lost the treasurer's race. Lenington will handle both jobs now that the assessor is no longer an elected office.

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