Delaware County voters are set to weigh in on the auditor race as the Nov. 8 general election approaches. Republican incumbent George Kaitsa is seeking his third reelection after having served in the role for the past 13 years, and he will be opposed by a Democratic newcomer in Vera Thornhill.
Kaitsa was appointed to the auditor position in 2009 following former Auditor Todd Hanks’ transition to the Delaware County Board of Commissioners, and he was elected to his first full term in 2014.
Prior to serving as the county auditor, Kaitsa held a number of senior management positions, including as the finance director for Franklin County, the first chief financial officer for the Ohio Department of Development, and the deputy director of the Ohio Department of Administrative Services.
“I had a strong financial background starting with Franklin County as well as the Department of Development, so that had always been my background,” Kaitsa told The Gazette of the appeal of the position.
At the time of his appointment, Kaitsa said he made a commitment to the Republican Party Central Committee that he had no other political aspirations and that he was only interested in serving as the county auditor.
“My point in making that commitment was that I was not looking at this office as any kind of a stepping stone to some other elected position,” Kaitsa said.
Kaitsa highlighted the expansive responsibilities of a county auditor, which includes overseeing all the financial transactions in the county. According to Kaitsa, those transactions totaled $1.1 billion in 2021. The valuations of all real property in the county, as well as all transfers of real property, are also among the auditor’s top responsibilities, as is the administering of 149 different tax levies in the county.
“The office is also responsible for managing the data center,” he said. “We have a network of over 1,300 workstations countywide that also include disaster recovery planning and cybersecurity, and we also provide shared services to other townships. Finally, we have the GIS website, which is considered one of the best and easiest to use by most of the Realtors in and around Delaware County. … That gives you an overview of the scope of the auditor’s office. I’ve had over 500 hours of continued education related to the responsibilities of serving as county auditor, which gives you a sense of how complex the office really is.”
Kaitsa added that it’s important for residents to understand the auditor’s office does not determine tax rates, which is a common misconception, he said.
As for why he decided to seek reelection, Kaitsa said he has several goals he still wants to achieve, beginning with maintaining Delaware County’s “stellar credit rating,” which he also called one of his most significant achievements during his time as auditor.
“We’re the only county in Ohio that has three AAA credit ratings,” Kaitsa said. “The AAA credit rating is the highest rating that you can possibly get. We’re also one of about 30 counties in the entire United States that has two AAA credit ratings, one from Moody’s and one from Standard and Poor’s.
“Maintaining that credit rating is really important, particularly as we look to the future needs that the county will have in terms of construction needs for the Bixby Center and potential sewer projects that may be on the horizon. That credit rating saves the county a significant amount of money in terms of interest savings when we go to the debt markets.”
Another goal Kaitsa holds is to continue the “tradition of excellence” in financial reporting the county has established with 30 consecutive years of receiving the Government Finance Officers Award, 13 of which have come under his direction.
“To receive that award, you have to have a clean audit every year,” he said. “That means you can’t have any findings or any significant financial issues. To have had that for 30 years is really an outstanding accomplishment for the county.”
Kaitsa went on to say he also wants to complete the reappraisals for all real property in the county, which needs to be done for 2023. He said there are several new technologies that will be used to increase efficiency throughout the process.
A 36-year resident of Delaware County, Thornhill graduated with a degree in business administration from The Ohio State University and has been a Realtor since 1986 and a broker since 2008.
She currently manages 64 single-family homes and oversees the accounting for four companies and two additional non-profit organizations.
Thornhill said she never had an elected office in her sights, and despite being registered as an independent voter, she decided to run when the Democratic Party reached out in need of people to run for positions.
“The government is in sort of shaky times right now, and I thought maybe I can make a positive influence. That’s what led me to decide to run,” she told The Gazette.
She added, “After (the party) got my background, they said I’d be best suited to be the auditor because of my real estate background and my bookkeeping and accounting background. And the job of the auditor is to value the real estate. That’s their job. We really don’t have input to pass laws or make public policy. So my background was more suited to be auditor than, say, a county commissioner or whatever.”
Asked what, in particular, will make her an asset to the county should she be elected as the next auditor, Thornhill said, “Well, because I’ve been doing real estate my whole life and the job of the auditor is to value the real estate.”
Thornhill went on to say, “I want to keep property taxes low by keeping the values from skyrocketing. I guess my goal is to serve and keep the taxes low. Also, I want to work on finding a constitutional way to fund schools. Schools are a big priority for me because I believe that if every child who comes out of high school or college can earn a living, then we can eliminate poverty in one generation. That’s what I’m passionate about.”
As for her message to voters, Thornhill said, “I think that my opponent has been there for four terms, and he did a fine job. But perhaps it’s time to get some new, fresh blood in and make some updates and come into the modern age.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.