Name: Kristi Vetri
Office Seeking: O’Fallon City Treasurer
Previous Offices: Alderman, 4 years; mayor, 8 years; Township Supervisor, 4 years
Why I am running: After Mayor Graham was elected in 1997, the City created a mayoral appointment called “Director of Finance,” a change that I supported. In 2003, however, the City expanded the duties of the Director of Finance that stripped the City Treasurer of all his powers. The public oversight and accountability functions of our treasurer were removed altogether giving the Director of Finance autonomous power and authority over our treasury. Then in 2010, the question was put to the public to abolish the treasurer’s position all together. It was defeated. I believe the City Treasurer’s powers should be restored to bring back independent oversight and necessary checks and balances by a public servant elected by and accountable to the residents of O’Fallon.
What is the most important issues facing the city of O’Fallon? How would you approach it? In 2015, when the City announced it was asking for proposals for the sale or lease our water and wastewater systems in exchange for an infusion of cash into our City to pay, among other things, our debt, I agreed to chair the campaign to get the question placed before the voters of whether the City should consider the sale or lease of our water and wastewater systems and related assets. The voters came out and overwhelmingly said NO. During that campaign, my research revealed that since 2003, the number of no bid contracts had risen exponentially, bond ordinances weren't being followed, funds were being co-mingled making it difficult and sometimes impossible to follow the money, employee bonuses and benefits were being paid without City Council approval, insurance and COBRA payments were not being watched, bond debt about $50 million and that it just wasn't the residents of O'Fallon that were being keep out of the treasury loop, but indeed about 1/2 of our Aldermen, too. If elected, I will ask the Mayor and City Council to support an Ordinance restoring the City Treasurer's powers; I will make our financial information "public friendly" and accessible to reduce the number of FOIA requests filed; I will order an audit of some of our City funds and tighten the way we account for our money; I will review all no-bid contracts BEFORE they are submitted to the City Council for Approval to ensure the taxpayers are not overpaying for services and products; I will work with the City Council and administration to find cost-cutting measures including workforce reduction, unnecessary expenditures of City funds, and alternative ways of paying for services and programs without increasing the tax burden on the City's residents.
If you were writing a job description for the position you’re seeking, what would it say? The City Treasurer is the Chief Investment Officer for the City and is responsible for managing the City’s investment portfolio. The City Treasurer is responsible for maintaining all records and accounts associated with the City’s operating funds as well as any escrow accounts held with various trustee banks. All collected funds and other income are subject to the inspection of and recorded by the city treasurer. Preparation of checks for payments is done by the clerk’s office staff, but it is the lawful duty of the treasurer to ensure that properly appropriated payments are made when warranted. The city treasurer is obligated to provide to the corporate authorities a monthly accounting representing the state of the city treasury. The report requires a specific breakdown of the various accounts and their respective status. Identified in the treasurer’s report are the miscellaneous sources of revenues and expenses including interest income from investments made by the treasurer and interest expenses related to possible loans and bond indebtedness of the municipality. The treasurer informally serves as a financial advisor to the mayor, council, clerk and administrator in their official capacities. When the annual budget is prepared or special financing projects are being considered, the treasurer may provide suggested direction and advice.
How would you keep costs down or reduce costs in your municipality? As Mayor, I eliminated unnecessary fees, reduced property taxes, and increased services. As Treasurer, I will explore ways of reducing our fees, rates and property taxes and make those recommendations to the Mayor and City Council. In addition to studying ways of cutting the cost of government, I will look for solutions that could include intergovernmental agreements, public-private partnerships, and grants.
In St. Clair County, there will be votes on two sales tax referendums. Do you support either or both? Why or why not? I looked at my property tax bill. 82% of the property taxes I paid last year went to the schools. That would be my answer to that. I believe that the primary focus of any local government is public safety. If you don’t have public safety, you’re not going to feel safe to go to school or even go to the grocery store. It is my understanding that the state is behind in payments to help with some of these public safety costs, and the federal government has cut funding for law enforcement. Additionally, I believe that public safety is key for economic development.
Why should people vote for me? I promise to bring a strong independent voice into City Hall and pledge to work with the new Mayor and City Council to bring oversight, accountability, transparency, and integrity back into the Office of Treasurer.