City Treasurer Dean Hardt says he believes the treasurer position cannot be eliminated, after promising during his campaign to investigate whether the position could be eliminated.
During the 2013 campaign, where Hardt ran alongside Ward 7 Alderman Phil Elmore in his failed bid for mayor, Hardt pledged he would look into whether the treasurer’s responsibilties could be absorbed by other Belleville city staff.
“When I finally came (into) the position and realized everything that truly was part of being a treasurer for the city of Belleville, and having worked with my coworkers and multiple departments I oversee, I came to realize this is a lot more work and there’s a lot more responsibility that the treasurer is responsible for and essentially made it necessary the position stay in place,” Hardt said.
Hardt says he stuck to his campaign pledge.
Since taking office, Hardt said, the city now has a system that allows it to accept all major credit cards, eliminated printing of several reports, and shifted to saving them electronically, and changed how checks are processed by scanning and depositing them electronically.
Hardt said he still is working with software developers on updating the city’s software that is used by the finance department, treasurer’s office, sewer billing, and other departments.
“During the last two years, we have made progress in moderninzing the day-to-day operations of the departments, but with rapidly changing technology, challenges to ensuring the privacy of our citizens, and area growth, there is continuing improvement and oversight necessary within this department,” Hardt wrote in a Belleville News-Democrat letter to the editor. “With much work yet to be done, including evaluation of operational efficiency involved with merging departments, I cannot advise eliminating the position at this time.”
In 2013, Hardt defeated then-treasurer Jerry Turner. Turner had said he was against eliminating the position, which pays about $72,000 a year.
“(Hardt) used that to get elected and now he’s backed away from it, I understand that totally,” Turner said.
Turner has maintained that if the elected position was eliminated, the duties would have to be absorbed by another staff member and there wouldn’t be any financial savings.
“I do believe it should remain an elected position,” Turner said. “I do believe the public needs to have something to say on the three top positions in the city. Democracy is better served in that fashion, than it would be if the position was appointed by the mayor.”
“Phil Elmore and the current treasurer made it a campaign position,” Turner added. “It was helpful, but it was wrong.”
Hardt said the finance director and treasurer have two different jobs, and each is necessary for checks and balances.
“The finance director is responsible for paying the claims, and handling accounts payables,” Hardt said. “I handle the accounts receivables and ensure the money that is paid to the city is applied to the appropriate funds. And then every month we balance all those funds between what our software says and our bank account says.”
Hardt says he has not decided whether he will run for re-election in 2017 and is not sure when he’ll make that decision. However, he said the treasurer position should remain an elected position.
“There’s an obligation to the residents to choose who represents them in this position, given the responsibilities the position has,” Hardt said.