City treasurer race
Jennifer Notariano challenges Misty Buscher
Incumbent city treasurer Misty Buscher, who defeated current mayoral candidate Frank Edwards for the position in 2014, is being challenged by newcomer Jennifer Notariano.
“Whether you’re the treasurer, alderman, mayor or city clerk, you’re never going to make 100 percent of the people happy,” Buscher said. “You have to make a decision, and never is everyone is going to be happy with that decision.”
Buscher said she ran for office because she was confident that she would be good at the job but said she’s learned some things about politics along the way.
“I didn’t run to say ‘I want to be a politician.’ I ran because I wanted to be a treasurer; I wanted to be the city’s banker.”
Buscher said since trading in her job as the vice president of mortgage lending at Marine Bank for a job in government, she’s proud of the adjustments that have allowed the treasurer’s office, along with its team of workers, to generate additional revenue for the city by collecting on outstanding debts.
“We now make a minimum of $1 million a year in interest and that never happened before I got here,” Buscher said.
She said other city departments are now able to view the city’s debt, thanks to software that has allowed the city’s silos to better communicate with one another, but there’s still work that needs to be done to improve communication. Buscher also secured the city’s finances through a collateral policy, which insures the city’s money in the event the city’s accounts are hacked or if the city were to go bankrupt.
Buscher said one thing that’s still been lingering since she took office is updating the city’s investment policy and cleaning up the city’s debt system. She also wants to work with the city’s projected revenues so the treasurer’s office can better plan for future projects.
“The taxpayers would benefit from that for sure, and so would the city,” Buscher said.
Candidate Notariano, who has worked in academia as an international relations instructor at Millikin University in Decatur, a short stint as an accountant and is currently a project manager at HSHS Medical Group, said she thinks being the city’s banker is the bare minimum required from the treasurer.
“I feel like this position is ripe for leadership, someone with a vision or creating a broad plan for the city’s future economic development,” Notariano said.
She sees the treasurer’s office as having many similarities to her current job, such as the need to take an all-encompassing view of the organization. Notariano said her job gives her the opportunity to work with different departments to ensure cohesion, much like the treasurer’s office interacts with other city departments.
Notariano sees herself serving as the “taxpayers’ watchdog and advocate” and thinks one of the biggest failures of the current treasurer is how Buscher presents the city’s finances to the council.
“What we’re getting right now from our current treasurer is someone who comes to the city council and reads off a balance sheet,” which doesn’t provide a fuller analysis of the city’s budget, Notariano said. The lack of background and analysis doesn’t help the city council or the residents of Springfield, in her opinion. “Numbers are a tiny fraction of the overall story,” Notariano said.
To increase some of the city’s revenue, Notariano said she thinks it’s a good idea to implement a permit-based parking system in the downtown area so residents and workers don’t have to focus on feeding the parking meter. She said it wouldn’t hurt to charge residents for annual parking permits and use a sliding scale for those who have lower incomes. She also thinks there could be an excise tax on privately owned downtown lots that remain vacant after 5 p.m. on weekdays.
“We need to starting being creative about how we’re going to increase revenue for the city,” Notariano said. “I think one of our major problems right now is that we’re sort of on the edge in terms of revenue.”
Lindsey Salvatelli is an editorial intern with Illinois Times as part of the Public Affairs Reporting master’s degree program at University of Illinois Springfield. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.