Is the State Treasurer’s Office Wasting Taxpayer Funds?

One candidate running to be State Treasurer seems to think so

MacIver News Service | May 2, 2014

[Madison, Wisc…] The Office of the State Treasurer seems to be spending a lot of money on cell phones, mobile hotspots and promotional materials according to newly released documents, but are the expenses actually a waste of taxpayer funds?

The newly surfaced documents show the office spends $372.38 per month for five cell phones and two mobile hotspots. That is an annual expenditure of $4,468.56. From December 2, 2013 to January 1, 2014, the office used 332 minutes between four of the lines. One cell phone was not used during that timeframe.

Matt Adamczyk, a Republican candidate for State Treasurer, released the documents after making an Open Records Request for the information. Adamczyk is running for State Treasurer primarily on his pledge to eliminate the office altogether.

Text messaging services are included in the cell phone bill, and a total of six text messages were sent from the four phones in the one-month period.

The office also has two mobile hotspots, which cost $39.99 a month each. In the billing cycle highlighted in the documents, neither was actually used. The annual cost for the hotspots is nearly $1,000.

The spokesperson for the Treasurer’s Office, however, claims these are legitimate expenses and no taxpayer funds are actually used for the operational budget of the office.

Cynthia Kaump, Director of Communications for the Treasurer, told the MacIver Institute that four employees had cell phones, while the additional phone was for employees to use while they were in the field. Kaump says the office had 13 employees, but that has recently dropped to four since seven employees transitioned to the Department of Revenue (DOR). The employees moved to DOR because that department took over the responsibility of managing unclaimed property in the state. Two other limited-term-employees were let go, as well.

She explained that the wireless hotspots were for emergency use for staff in the case that WiFi was not available at events. So, they are not always used during every billing cycle.

Kaump also highlighted the fact that the office is not reliant on taxpayer funds.

“I think there is this gross misconception that we are taking money from taxpayers, we are costing people tax dollars. That is absolutely not true,” Kaump said in an interview. “We help support the general fund and take the burden off of taxpayers. And, all the while, help get money back in their pockets.”

According to Kaump, in 2011, the State Treasurer’s office “pumped $33.9 million dollars back into Wisconsin’s economy and $35.9 million in 2012. We did all this, while we slashed our unclaimed property budget, our promotional budget nearly in half, while we continued to grow the returns to the people and small businesses of our state.”

Other documents show that the Treasurer’s Office spends money on promotional materials, like drink coasters, coin pouches and coloring books. The office has spent $19,324.42 on promotional materials according to the documents.

Kaump argues that the office spends very little on promotional materials when compared to other state agencies. She also said that the office sent more money back to taxpayers while cutting the budget in certain areas.

Kaump made it clear that the office still has a wide range of duties. They work with DOR on unclaimed property, promote financial literacy in the state, and work with EdVest to encourage saving for college, among others.

“We have more than 113 duties statutorily,” she said. “We have the same, I believe, the same amount of constitutional duties as the Attorney General.”

The documents released by Adamczyk showing some of the expenditures from the Office of the State Treasurer are available here.