Name: Chris Slusser
Office seeking: Madison County Treasurer
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City of residence: Wood River
Campaign website: www.slusser4treasurer.com
Why are you running and why should people vote for you? I’m running because despite all of the good work we’ve done in the past 19 months, there is still a lot to accomplish. I wanted to bring a professional approach to the Treasurer’s Office with the goal of doing right by the taxpayers and serving them with excellence.
So far, we’ve reduced spending both years that I’ve been in office. Shortly after taking office, we discovered a large unfunded pension liability that had unnecessarily cost taxpayers nearly $2 million in interest payments over a 10 year period. We paid off the balance, saving taxpayers $200,000 per year. We saved the taxpayers more than $80,000 per year with a new tax payment processor. We also accelerated tax distribution payments to the schools to help improve their cash flow and make payroll during the state budget crisis.
We also completely overhauled the county’s $155 million investment portfolio. The portfolio earned just over $1 million in interest prior to my taking office. This year, it will earn nearly $3 million. By the time the overhaul is complete next year, earnings will exceed $4.5 million per year. That allows less reliance on property tax dollars.
I am committed to stewardship, transparency and integrity.
What qualifications do you have for this position? I am uniquely qualified for the position of treasurer due to my professional background. I spent nearly 9 years as an investment advisor and then as Chief Financial Officer for a commercial real estate firm, before serving as Vice President for a large commercial real estate developer.
The Treasurer is tasked with managing the county’s investment portfolio. In just 19 months, we’ve nearly tripled the returns on the portfolio, adding millions in new revenue. Now I’m advising other county treasurers and taxing districts on how to structure and invest their portfolios. Often treasurers have either an accounting or banking background, but it’s rare to find a county treasurer with an investment background.
My real estate background has been instrumental in bridging the gaps to better service title companies and avoid pitfalls that sometimes occur in the complex real estate tax system that we have here in the State of Illinois.
My management and accounting skills have allowed us to greatly reduce costs in our office, and we’ve implemented new training to allow our staff to do their jobs with excellence.
My 4 years of service on the County Board allowed me to have a familiarity with county government, and I have a very good working relationship with the entire County Board.
What is the biggest issue facing the Treasurer’s Office? How would you handle it? The biggest issue facing the Treasurer’s Office is the management of the county’s investment portfolio. The county government can keep its real estate tax levy lower if the investment portfolio is generating more income. When I came into office, I did a top-down analysis on the roughly $150 million portfolio and realized that we were exposed to inflationary risk and missing out on a lot of yield opportunities.
As County Treasurer, I’m bound by the Illinois Public Funds Investment Act, so I’m pretty limited in what I’m allowed to invest in. I’ve overhauled the portfolio with a laddering strategy, and greatly increased the amount of municipal bond holdings. The portfolio was averaging a 1.08% rate of return when I took over. The investments that I’ve made over the past 18 months are averaging more than a 3% rate of return. We’ve been able to increase yield, while also keeping plenty of money liquid to pay the bills, and protect the funds from unnecessary risk.
The millions in extra revenue generated from the investment portfolio has been a great thing for the taxpayers in this county, because it allows the county to rely less on property tax revenues.