For a year now, I've been a little upset at a situation that most people may not have realized is happening. The City of Pontiac banks in Indiana.
This blog isn't about personal freedom or choice. If you want to bank in New York, go ahead. That's your choice and right. It's your money and you are the best one to make decisions on what to do with your own money.
But the city's money is our money. You and I pay taxes and fees to the city of Pontiac, and they are sending it to Indiana. To me, that's not right.
The situation happened because of decisions made by the bank. Pontiac National Bank a few years back became Freestar Bank. While Freestar was no longer a Pontiac-based bank, it was still a Central Illinois-based financial institution and most of the local decisions still happened locally. However, since selling off to First Financial Bank of Indiana, nothing is local. I even called First Financial's Indiana headquarters, and they confirmed that the Pontiac bank is now simply a branch of the Indiana bank, and all assets, deposits, and activity is in Indiana.
I brought this up with the city a couple times in passing over the past year, hoping they would look into it. Nothing happened. I then wrote the mayor and council last August, and I sat down with the mayor to voice my concern and asked that he address it with the council. To my knowledge, while I know my letter was distributed to the council, this topic has not been discussed by the city council at any meeting.
For the record, here is my letter:
|August 14, 2012
Mayor Robert Russell
Pontiac City Council
City of Pontiac, Illinois
115 West Howard Street
Pontiac, Illinois 61764
Dear Mayor and City Council,
As you are aware, at the beginning of this year Freestar Bank was taken over by First Financial Corporation of Terre Haute, Indiana.
To my knowledge, the vast majority of banking for the City of Pontiac, Illinois has been through Pontiac National Bank, which later became Freestar Bank. As of the first of this year, the bank is now Indiana-based First Financial.
First Financial Corporation is not a local bank. In fact, it is not even an Illinois bank. I’ve had direct conversations with First Financial’s corporate office and they confirmed that all deposits, transactions, and bank assets are with the Indiana corporation, and no longer stay in Illinois. Unfortunately, our once local bank has been reduced to nothing more than a remote branch of the Indiana bank. I urge you to do what I did and investigate this on your own.
In my opinion, the City’s interest in handling the people’s money cannot be met by First Financial. Our local money is being deposited in Indiana, and therefore contributing to an out-of-state business and removing financial assets and jobs out of Illinois. An Illinois municipality conducting its banking with an out-of-state bank is concerning.
If an out-of-state bank built a new branch here, you would never consider banking there when other local and Pontiac-based financial institutions exist. However, we now find ourselves in this exact situation. If we want to see the Pontiac-Taxpayers’ money, we’ll need to visit the vault across the border in the Hoosier state. To me, this makes as much sense as depositing our local tax dollars in a New York or even an overseas bank — and I know the City Council would ever allow that to happen.
I hope you will take this as seriously as I do. I know the Administration and Council have the best interest of the community in mind. I strongly feel it’s in the best interest of our city and the taxpayers who work hard and pay taxes to support our community, for the City Council have a serious discussion about utilizing local financial institutions.
I realize it is a major undertaking to switch financial institutions, but I firmly believe this is the right thing to do. While individuals are free to conduct their personal business with any entity they wish, I feel our public taxpayer funds should be kept local whenever possible.
I want to be clear that this is not a statement against First Financial or the wonderful local people who work at the bank branches here in Pontiac. It’s also not an endorsement for any other financial institution. It’s a request for the City Council to discuss what is in the best interest for the People of Pontiac, Illinois and our money.
Scott H. McCoy
A Proud City of Pontiac, Illinois Resident & Tax Payer
I feel this is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. I know I'm not alone, either. Why it's not being addressed, or even discussed, is beyond me. Having an Illinois municipality doing its banking with an Indiana Bank doesn't make sense to me.
We ask people to shop local, invest locally, and support Pontiac.
I think it would be nice if our city leaders did the same with our money.