What candidates for Springfield city treasurer say about investing, pensions, services

Editor's note: The is one of a series of articles previewing candidates vying in the April 4 consolidated election. Early voting is underway.

On behalf of voters, The State Journal-Register asked candidates for Springfield city treasurer a series of questions relevant to the race. Here is how the candidates responded.

As city treasurer, how would you best manage city investments?

Colleen Redpath Feger: First and foremost, the treasurer must follow the rules and stipulations of the State of Illinois Statutes and the City of Springfield’s investment policies. Per the investment policy, you must invest in a manner which will provide the highest investment return with the maximum security while meeting the daily cash flow demands. The three objectives of the City’s investment policy are safety, liquidity and return on investment. I will continue to follow all the rules of the investment policy that is in place. Currently, all of the city’s invested funds are with local banks and with Illinois funds through the State of Illinois government investment pool. I will continue to work with our local banks to keep the rates on returns high and promote reinvestment in our community.

Bill McCarty: Keeping city funds safe is the most important job of the treasurer. That includes protecting funds both from bank insolvency and investment loss. Thus, a conservative approach is appropriate opting for capital preservation over capital appreciation. While using certificates of deposits (CDs) as a method of investment is a simple and safe option, there are other avenues that can be explored to get a better rate of return while maintaining safety. I’ve already spoken with a firm that specializes in working with cities to increase their rate of return while simultaneously protecting funds from loss. This firm does assist several cities in and around Illinois with investing their funds and they have been able to realize returns that exceed CDs. In the end, CDs may be the best option, but we should do the work to investigate other potentially better options.

Lisa Badger: As city treasurer, I will not only invest city dollars well but also invest my time in the community. As for the funds, I will be a watchdog for diversity in investing in both local and state funders to reach maximum returns. The office can do more to invest in the community and help residents with their own finances and be much more user-friendly.

What ways could you streamline services in the office? What other initiatives would you implement?

Bill McCarty: As treasurer, my ideas for improving the office revolve around customer convenience. Residents need to be able to pay where they want, when they want, with what they want. We need to make sure online access and payment options evolve with technology. Whether it’s cash, credit cards, Venmo or some other as yet to be determined payment method, we need to be able to accept it. Also, I’d like to explore the possibility of changing the hours of the office at least one day a week to offer availability to residents before or after normal work hours so that they can opt to come in person without having to rush at lunch or take time off of work. Exploring automated payment kiosks and a central city payment portal would be on my to-do list as well.

Bill McCarty
Bill McCarty

Lisa Badger: The streamlining is an easy fix, which hasn't been done in the past four or eight years. We have to reach people where they are. Through phones, searchable databases, QR codes- to assist with the easement of services to the people we serve.

Colleen Redpath Feger: My plans for the future include:

1. Highlight and encourage online payments. The treasurer’s office already offers online payments for many services. I would work with other city departments and encourage online payments for additional services.

2. Enhance "text to pay" with vendor. Currently, the treasurer’s office offers a "text to pay" option. I plan to work closely with our credit card vendor to offer a more enhanced option of text to pay for city violations and parking tickets.

3. Implement a "live chat" feature for real-time communication. This would allow staff in the office to have dialogue and answer questions with the public.

4. Streamline city department financial and uploading of data for greater public transparency.

The city treasurer is responsible for administration of the fire and police pension funds. As treasurer, would you advocate for extra payments by the city?

Lisa Badger: I believe we have made steps and strides as a city as a whole to correct the pension problems that every community in Illinois faces. A day worked and a dollar earned is the right thing to do for the police and firefighters that have earned their pensions. We are in a good position in Springfield to continue to contribute to the backlog.

Lisa Badger
Lisa Badger

Colleen Redpath Feger: Both the fire pension and police pension board members are the sole decision-makers when directing the use of any funds for their respective entities. The State of Illinois mandated that both the firefighters’ and police officers’ pension funds be consolidated into two new pooled investment funds statewide, IPOPIF and IFPIF. The city treasurer is the treasurer of the two funds but not a voting member. Furthermore, the city treasurer has no vote on policy when allocating city funds during budget time. However, as city treasurer I would guide the boards and work with them to help obtain the result they are wanting for the betterment of both the fire and police pension funds. I am actively working with both boards currently to complete a RFP (request for proposal) for actuarial services. This will help guide them on the amount to request for contribution from the City of Springfield.

Bill McCarty: As treasurer, I would adhere to the same philosophy that I have as city budget director for 12 years. I would advocate for additional payments whenever the city has the resources to do so, which we’ve demonstrated is possible by making additional pension payments in numerous years since the Great Recession. Given the pension ramp the city is facing, it will be important to make payments over and above the Annual Required Contribution (ARC) whenever possible in an attempt to avoid adverse budgetary pressures in the future.

This article originally appeared on State Journal-Register: Three candidates are vying for Springfield city treasurer