Treasurer candidates point out differences during debate

Quincy Treasurer Peggy Crim, left, and challenger Tom Ernst, right, meet with moderator Iris Nelson before the start of the League of Women Voters candidate forum Tuesday night in the Quincy University North Campus auditorium. (H-W Photo/Phil Carlson)
Posted: Mar. 19, 2013 11:32 pm Updated: Apr. 10, 2013 12:15 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

The candidates for Quincy treasurer offered their differing viewpoints on how they see the office being handled in the future during a voter's forum on Tuesday night.

Republican challenger Tom Ernst continued to push his plan of combining the treasurer and comptroller positions, a move Democratic incumbent Peggy Crim told the crowd at Quincy University's North Campus would not be prudent.

Ernst said he believes combining the job of treasurer and comptroller would result in a savings of $70,000 to taxpayers.

"By combining and doing more, we'll be more efficient," Ernst said. "We will cut down on more government, and I think the taxpayers will benefit from a person who does everything. ... There is no reason why one person couldn't do comptroller and treasurer."

Crim, who has been in office since 2001, disagreed with Ernst and pointed out that many municipalities across the nation and even in Adams County function with both a treasurer and comptroller.

"By eliminating one of those positions, you lose all of the internal controls that assure financial integrity," Crim said. "I'm not talking about just someone stealing money. You lose all the control to know that your financial reports are accurate. You really do need the checks and balances.

"If you rely on an elected official who may or may not understand accounting to do all of the work, then you are probably going to have to hire someone else to do your budgeting and those types of things. I don't see how this would be a good thing to do."

The two also differed on how technology can help lead to an online bill pay system for the city's water bills. Both have said that adding an online bill pay component is important, but Crim is wary of investing in a program. She noted the program the state of Illinois currently provides to pay bills electronically isn't used by many people.

"There are only three or four people a month who use it," she said. "That is one of the reasons why I am very hesitant to spend over $20,000 to purchase software for the true online banking. We don't know what the yearly charges would be for that upgrade either. We only have four water payments a year. To spend that type of money to benefit a few people who have asked for it four times a year seems a little too much for me."

Ernst pointed out that the city recently spent money for City Council members to receive iPads to use before and during meetings. He would like to see some money on technology spent in the treasurer's office.

"Why can't we spend, in Peggy's own words, $20,000 to computerize the office?" Ernst said. "Will it not save more money? Those are things I think we need to look at in the office to see if we can become more trim and better serve the taxpayers."

Both candidates touted their experience as a reason why voters should select them April 9. Crim talked about her 30 years of financial experience. Since becoming treasurer, Crim has become certified as an Illinois municipal treasurer, a public funds administrator and a public funds investment manager.

She said her office was the first government office in Quincy to put investments out to bid to all city and county banks. She said the city has money invested with every city bank and some in the county.

Ernst, a self-employed insurance agent, talked of how he has run multiple businesses, including a travel agency and a golf course, in the past. He believes that the treasurer doesn't need to be an accountant to hold the position.