Falls Church voters will decide Tuesday whether to abolish the elected posts of city treasurer and commissioner of revenue, historic jobs that many city residents say are inefficient anachronisms.

The two "respected . . . old gentlemen" who currently hold these posts are not thm issue, according to former City Council member Charles J. Hedetniemi, who heads Citizens for Modern Financial Management, a bipartisan group supporting the change.

Doing away with the jobs would save Falls Church and the state some $100,000 a year, said Hedetniemi, and would create a one-stop tax center for residents and simplify city financial affairs that are now handled in three separate offices.

The debate over the two jobs has become a political issue for the first time in a city that prides itself on largely nonpartisan government and debate.

The Falls Church Republican Committee and the head of the city's Democratic Committee oppose abolishing the two posts -- objecting to the elimination of any elective offices.

So do the "old gentlemen" themselves -- James Durant, who will be 79 next month and has been city treasurer for 31 years, and Claude Wells, 70, commissioner of revenue for the past 12 years.

"I had some questions when I took the job," said Wells, "because my predecessor rarely walked in the door and it didn't look like there was much to do here. But I've worked full-time ever since."

The League of Women Voters supports the change, and while the City Council has not taken an official position on it, "all seven City Council members believe that consolidation of financial functions will bring greater efficiency and more responsible administration," according to the citizens committee brochures.

The referendum is technically only an advisory one, but if it passes, the city clerk is required to send the results to the Virginia legislature and request a change in the city charter eliminating the two posts, said Hedetniemi.

The same changes were rejected by Falls Church voters in 1976, when the League of Women Voters first proposed them. Hedetniemi said there was little public debate or understanding of the issues then.

"It is a remote question for most voters," he said. "Many don't really understand the complicated structure of local government."

Wells and Durant contend that far from saving $100,000 a year, eliminating the two posts, which pay about $31,000 each, and their combined staff of 10 employes, actually will cost the city money and result in much less tax assistance for city residents.

Local treasurers in Virginia collect local and state taxes and commissioners of revenue act as assessors of various property and business taxes and review state income tax returns.

We reviewed 6,500 state income tax returns filed with us this past year, and I estimate we found errors in 50 percent of them, which we corrected" before sending them on to Richmond, Wells said.

"And we saved more than $600 in taxes over three years for a former city councilman" who had failed to discover ways to save money on his return, he said.

Wells said such personal service on income tax returns is not available in Alexandria, Fairfax and Prince William counties, and the handful of counties and cities in the state that have abolished treasurer and commissioner of revenue posts.

This is disputed by those jurisdictions.

Alexandria's new director of finance, Joseph Sickon, said he has just reviewed this question and found that since the city eliminated the posts in 1973, his office had added only one employe, "although city expenditures have risen 293 percent and revenues 280 percent" in the past 11 years.

Fairfax City residents last year voted to keep the posts after their city treasurer of 27 years, Frances L. Cox, had been convicted of embezzling city tax money. After a retrial earlier this month, she was Falls Church Weighs Value of 2 Posts Abolishing Treasurer and Revenue Commissioner Posts Is on Ballot By Paul Hodge Washington Post Staff Writer

Falls Church voters will decide Tuesday whether to abolish the elected posts of city treasurer and commissioner of revenue, historic jobs that many city residents say are inefficient anachronisms.

The two "respected . . . old gentlemen" who currently hold these posts are not thm issue, according to former City Council member Charles J. Hedetniemi, who heads Citizens for Modern Financial Management, a bipartisan group supporting the change.

Doing away with the jobs would save Falls Church and the state some $100,000 a year, said Hedetniemi, and would create a one-stop tax center for residents and simplify city financial affairs that are now handled in three separate offices.

The debate over the two jobs has become a political issue for the first time in a city that prides itself on largely nonpartisan government and debate.

The Falls Church Republican Committee and the head of the city's Democratic Committee oppose abolishing the two posts -- objecting to the elimination of any elective offices.

So do the "old gentlemen" themselves -- James Durant, who will be 79 next month and has been city treasurer for 31 years, and Claude Wells, 70, commissioner of revenue for the past 12 years.

"I had some questions when I took the job," said Wells, "because my predecessor rarely walked in the door and it didn't look like there was much to do here. But I've worked full-time ever since."

The League of Women Voters supports the change, and while the City Council has not taken an official position on it, "all seven City Council members believe that consolidation of financial functions will bring greater efficiency and more responsible administration," according to the citizens committee brochures.

The referendum is technically only an advisory one, but if it passes, the city clerk is required to send the results to the Virginia legislature and request a change in the city charter eliminating the two posts, said Hedetniemi.

The same changes were rejected by Falls Church voters in 1976, when the League of Women Voters first proposed them. Hedetniemi said there was little public debate or understanding of the issues then.

"It is a remote question for most voters," he said. "Many don't really understand the complicated structure of local government."

Wells and Durant contend that far from saving $100,000 a year, eliminating the two posts, which pay about $31,000 each, and their combined staff of 10 employes, actually will cost the city money and result in much less tax assistance for city residents.

Local treasurers in Virginia collect local and state taxes and commissioners of revenue act as assessors of various property and business taxes and review state income tax returns.

We reviewed 6,500 state income tax returns filed with us this past year, and I estimate we found errors in 50 percent of them, which we corrected" before sending them on to Richmond, Wells said.

"And we saved more than $600 in taxes over three years for a former city councilman" who had failed to discover ways to save money on his return, he said.

Wells said such personal service on income tax returns is not available in Alexandria, Fairfax and Prince William counties, and the handful of counties and cities in the state that have abolished treasurer and commissioner of revenue posts.

This is disputed by those jurisdictions.

Alexandria's new director of finance, Joseph Sickon, said he has just reviewed this question and found that since the city eliminated the posts in 1973, his office had added only one employe, "although city expenditures have risen 293 percent and revenues 280 percent" in the past 11 years.

Fairfax City residents last year voted to keep the posts after their city treasurer of 27 years, Frances L. Cox, had been convicted of embezzling city tax money. After a retrial earlier this month, she was sentenced to six months in jail and given a 9 1/2- suspended sentence.

Residents of Newport News, Va., will also decide Tuesday whether to abolish the two posts Nov. 6. sentenced to six months in jail and given a 9 1/2- suspended sentence.

Residents of Newport News, Va., will also decide Tuesday whether to abolish the two posts Nov. 6.