By James McKenna
As I sit and watch the Patriots beat the Jets, I can’t help but reflect on what I believe Patriots Coach Bill Belichick would have to agree on: a manager is only as good as the players on his team.
This week we bid farewell and best wishes to Tim Gordon, our Chief Financial Officer for the past three years. Tim is heading to his hometown of Holbrook to be their Town Administrator. To say the least, the Town of Winthrop has much to be grateful for Tim’s service. When Tim took over, we were bouncing off the financial basement floor, with an average free cash balance for the prior three years of a paltry $281,000, when adjusted for a payroll deficit in FY’12 of -$226,000. However, during Tim’s tenure, the town has seen a complete elimination of the many recurring deficits both in the town’s General Fund and the Enterprise Funds as well. Prior to their resolution, these unresolved deficits would negatively limit the town’s year end results, producing anemic or negative free cash balances. Tim and his team of Elizabeth Zaleski and Monica Ford, and in cooperation with Department Heads and with guidance from Dick Hingston of Giusti, Hingston, tackled these challenges, enabling the town to see historic free cash surpluses for the past three years of $1.5million in FY’13, $2.25million in FY’14 and $2.1million for FY’15 respectively. In fact, the town is now considered a case example of solid fiscal turnaround.
But that’s only part of the story. Together, Tim and I worked with the Town Council and the Citizens Finance Committee and the Finance Commission to restore the Town’s Stabilization Fund from a poor $210,000 balance in FY’12 to $1.7million by FY’15. We did this by implementing free cash policies by which 80% of free cash is transferred to three stabilization funds. Total stabilization balances stand at $2.7 million today, and we are well on our way to building these reserves to a goal of $5 million, or what the Department of Revenue considers to be a well-managed reserve balance.
Meanwhile, together with his finance team, Tim worked with me to address multiple challenges with the fiscal management of the town, including but not limited to:
Aggressively pursuing the collection of outstanding property tax, collecting $1.1 million in arrearages;
Bonding 95 percent of the debt for the new Middle/High School, doing so upfront and capitalizing on low interest rates, saving the Winthrop taxpayers $8million from original estimates;
We initiated property foreclosure proceedings for long-term tax title properties (6 residential properties);
We aggressively resolved long standing management letter deficiencies; correcting 34 of 38 Audit comments;
Tim led the efforts to outsourced IT services for all Town departments and coordinated implementation;
Tim developed an enterprise fund indirect cost rate; taking the confusion out of how we quantify our general fund support to the enterprise funds;
Tim created consolidated monthly financial report for Town Council; dashboard data and detailed information;
We collaborated on a five year capital plan and started funding capital items within annual operating budget;
Tim created a costing agreement for school related costs paid by Town that allows for accurate cost reporting;
We collaborated in the development of a series of finance policies and procedures to ensure that the town doesn’t fall back to the days of cash shell games and recurring deficits.
But most of all, Tim helped all the Departments develop fiscal disciples for budgeting and spending that will be long lasting. For deep respect and gratitude for his contribution to our team, the Departments gave Tim an autographed football game ball; a nice touch to a winning record. Thanks for everything, Tim, and best of luck in your future endeavors.
James McKenna is the Town Manager for Winthrop.