Springfield voters will choose a candidate to manage the city’s bank accounts, and collect fees and fines on April 2. Current treasurer Misty Buscher is running for re-election against challenger Jennifer Notariano.
NPR Illinois talked with both candidates about their experience, qualifications and priorities for the office.
Listen to their interviews here.
Below are lightly edited responses:
Buscher: I have been a banker for 25 years-- that experience is what allowed me to look at how the city's ones were invested, break that down and change how that process was going on, in order to take the city's revenues from investments from $86,000 to over a million dollars. That didn't cost the taxpayers any money. We didn't have to increase any cost or expenses, or any headaches to the taxpayers. It was just changing how we did business. I do want another four years so that we can continue improving not only the income coming into the city and the revenue, but also communication along city departments about revenues and expenses, so that we all have a better fiscal standpoint.
Notariano: I taught at Millikin University as an instructor of political science. I taught about economic development in countries all around the world and global poverty. So I understand the complexities of governing and fiscal policy. And I'm able to break that down into terms that are easily digestible.
As a healthcare administrator, I'm sort of the hub in my role in legal services between the people who are actually in the clinics running the business and the leadership team who are making decisions. So I'm not a decision-maker, I facilitate those decisions, much like the treasurer isn't a decision-maker. She facilitates the spending of the various departments in their budgetary needs.
Buscher: We have several priorities in our office, one of which is to work with the other departments within city hall, and have a forecasting and revenue software that I have actually investigated. So that each department can input information into it, and we can actually go backwards up to 10 years and put data in. We can watch and see the ebb and flow of the highest levels of our expenses. And then when we have extra cash, the treasurer's office can have more of a possibility of investing those funds because we have made so much money in investments. And then also, the different departments will know when those funds are highs and lows for purchasing of larger items, (like) police cars, fire trucks, public works trucks, things like that.
Some of our aldermen have said that they feel it's confusing when one fiscal year we are raising taxes because we have no money, and the next fiscal year we have money. The software will allow our aldermen, our mayor, our clerk, our treasurer and all of our department heads to share in that knowledge on a daily basis, which is much needed.
Notariano: The first thing that I would do would be to increase transparency. My opponent’s Treasurer's Report is literally what the balance in the general fund was in the month prior, how much they took in and what the balance is at the end of the month. So I would add some color to that, some details.
Some things that from an outsider's perspective I can see, that I would appreciate in a city treasurer, is doing some resident outreach; holding meetings, town halls, separate from the ward meetings, talking about those big expenditures or big project plans that the city has, in conjunction with the relevant departments. So for example, like public works, if we have a big upgrade that's happening to the sewer, or maybe it's a big construction project, just to let people know that someone's watching out for where the money's going and making sure the taxpayers are getting like the big bang for their buck.
Economic development and role of the treasurer
Buscher: The mayor's office actually is in charge of the economic development. He has a director there, there is a staff there. I think the director and the staff are doing a good job. I don't think that it's my job to run that department. I'm focused on bringing revenues in and that is what we've done successfully.
Notariano: The treasurer doesn't make policy, doesn't decide how we're going to tax and how we're going to spend. So you have to be a little bit creative if you, as treasurer, want to increase economic development. Part of my calling attention to the fiscal situation in Springfield would be to inform people, let people know that the city relies very heavily on getting revenue from sales tax. And I would explain to them, what that means is that it is squeezing people who have the least money to give. If we're relying on sales tax revenue, that puts a heavy burden on working people, middle class people, and seniors on fixed income.
And so not only is it unfair, but it's also something that is very much in flux. Like the past two years, we've actually been getting less sales tax revenue. No one's talking about it and the city treasurer could do that.