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Voters decide against electing city treasurer



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November 07, 2012 | 10:19 AM
It appears there will be some additional space on the Lake Geneva city ballots in the future.

The slot for the city treasurer will be empty starting in the April 2014 election.

Voters overwhelmingly approved an ordinance that will combine the city treasurer with a deputy clerk position to be appointed by the city council.

According to the complete, unofficial returns from Lake Geneva, 1,865 voted for an appointed deputy clerk-treasurer and 1,098 voted against, a spread of 63 percent to 37 percent.

That means the city treasurer won't be elected anymore. The new ordinance takes effect when the term of the current city treasurer, Teresa Klein, expires in 2014.

There have been no complaints about Klein's performance as treasurer. In fact, she worked in the clerk's office and trained under the previous treasurer Germaine Clifford.

Instead, council members said they were looking for efficiencies and cost savings by combining the treasurer's position with that of deputy clerk and to ensure the quality of the city employee occupying that position by requiring proper training and experience.

Mayor Jim Connors, who supported the measure, said he thought the voters' support for the new position is a "positive step" in the city's future.

"And I'm positive it will pay dividends down the road," he added in a telephone interview after the results were released. According to Regional News back issues, there have been at least three previous attempts to make the treasurer an elected position.

In 2000, city electors voted 1,144-271 to keep the position on the biennial ballot.

Voters also turned similar proposals back in 2003 and as far back as the 1970s, although the archives do not have vote totals for either of those referendum elections.

Connors said he wants to believe that the city's electors have learned to trust the hiring policies of the city, with the city making quality hires for both city clerk and comptroller, two positions that used to be elected in the past.

"It's a matter of putting the right person in the appropriate position," Connors said.

The Lake Geneva City Council most recently stated its preference for an appointed city treasurer at its May 29 meeting.

Supporters of an appointed treasurer argued that a candidate for the position would have to be qualified and would be subject to performance review.

The elected treasurer has no job qualifications and is subject only to the voters.

The charter ordinance was approved 5-2, with council members Alan Kupsik, Sarah Hill, Jeff Wall, Gary Hougen and William Mott voting for and council members Arleen Krohn and Ellyn Kehoe opposed.

The ordinance not only made the city treasurer position an appointed one, it will combine the position with the deputy clerk.

The city treasurer is currently paid $16,000 a year. The deputy clerk position pays $36,889.

The council's personnel committee will set the salary of the combined position.

The combined city treasurer-deputy clerk position would be under the city clerk's office. Klein ran unopposed for her second term as treasurer this year. The treasurer's position has statutory duties. The city treasurer is required to collect real and property taxes for the city.

The treasurer is also required to balance the city cash drawer and make daily deposits at the bank specified by city ordinance.

A new duty was added this year, after the city went to the parking kiosks. The kiosks report all credit card transactions directly to the bank, Klein said. The treasurer's new duty is to collect the deposit slips from those electronic transactions and return them to the city.

The move to combine the two positions was based on an internal controls audit the city received December 2009 from Schenk SC, the city auditors. The report noted that while the current elected treasurer adequately performed her duties, few city governments in Wisconsin maintain elected treasurers.

The report recommended the city "review this position to determine if it would be better suited as an appointed position under the direction of the city controller to provide opportunities to better utilize this position in financial reporting processes." The personnel committee reviewed the report and at its Nov. 22, 2011 and March 27 meetings recommended combining the positions.

According to a recent survey by the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, of 490 municipalities in the state responding to a league survey just 55, Lake Geneva among them, had elected treasurers.

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