New finance director is off and running
The term "hit the ground running" isn't lost on the city of Farmington's new finance director, Teresa Walters. She's been here just about a month, and already she's completed the city's 2009 audit, and is now gearing up for the 2011 budget season.
Walters came to Farmington from Waseca, where she was the finance director. Prior to that, she worked for about 10 years in the city of Bloomington's finance department. Farmington's a much better drive for her, since she's a resident of Elko.
Walters took a few minutes out of her schedule Tuesday afternoon to reflect a little bit on her new job in a new community. "Running" might be an understatement. "Running at lightning speed" might be more like it.
You've been here for about a month so far. How's your first month gone?
It has been extremely busy. We have prepared for the audit, went through the audit and on top of that, we've kind of started digging into the budget, and it's just been busy getting into everything. Going through the audit, they go through everything that you do, and so it was a little bit of just getting into everything. And I was preparing the financial statements, too, so I while was doing that I would have to be (saying) "Ok, what's going on here? What's going on there?" So it has, it has been very busy. A lot of long days, too.
You pretty much had to jump right in with the city's audit as one of your first big projects. Coming in here, how did you prepare for that? I mean, you weren't here physically for so long leading up to it, and then you had three weeks to prepare for your first audit.
I've prepared for audits for many years. I did it for Bloomington, I did it in Waseca, and so it's not any different in what you do. It's just that you have different funds, you have different numbers. Some cities have different activities. We had some different areas here that I didn't know about, and so it was a learning experience but at the same time, it was also things that I had done before. I knew, in my mind, what needed to be done, and I also knew that it was basically a three-month preparation process that we had three weeks to do. I just had my staff on board with it and they did a lot of things that they had never done before, but they were great. Absolutely great. They dug in and they were willing to help, and I think it went pretty well for the most part.
Were there any surprises?
Oh, yes. There were surprises. (Chuckles) I think I should leave it at that.
Now you're starting to get ready for your first budget process here in Farmington. What are you doing to prepare for that?
(City administrator) Peter (Herlofksy) really wants the council to give us direction before we do anything. But what I'm doing is putting spreadsheets together right now, just to link everything in one place, so that way when we make any changes to one thing, it automatically changes everything else. Just trying to prepare for it that way, so when we're ready, we can put those numbers in. Also, I'm going through a lot of the debt service funds and trying to see where the money comes from because all of these debt funds, some of them are paid through assessments, some are paid through the levy, some of them are paid by fees, some of them we get state aid for, so I need to know all of that before I can actually prepare the budget so I can actually see where the transfers are coming from. This is probably boring for you, but it's a process. It's really a process, just putting all of the salaries in one area and the benefits and just breaking it all down to where it's coded to. It's a lot of work, and setting it all up. That's kind of what I'm doing right now. The set-up process.
Do you like workshops?
They can be okay. You know what? It's a time for the council to really dig down and figure out where they want to spend the money and what they want to spend it on, if they want to increase the levy and if they don't want to increase the levy. It's a time for them to give us direction and tell us where to cut, and also a time for us to tell them what's going on. There are a lot of things that we have to increase. There are outside entities that are increasing their fees and they're passing them along to us, so we have no choice but to budget for that. They're okay. Budget season is a lot of work. It just really is.
Okay, enough about the numbers. How's the rest of your new job going?
It's going great. I've met a lot of people. I met most of them on my first day, so I think a lot of them are surprised that I don't remember their names, but (chuckles) everybody's been really nice. They've really welcomed me.
It sounds like you have a good rapport with your finance staff already.
Yes, yes. We've worked very closely in the last month, and we've had a lot of meetings together. "What have you done? What's complete? What's not complete?" throughout the whole audit process. Now we're just trying to keep that communication going.
Is there anything you're looking forward to?
I am looking forward to everything settling down. I don't think that's going to really happen for a while, because I need to get through a whole year before I really understand everything that goes on because it's not like we're doing the same things over and over again every single month. There are some things that remain the same, but really they change consistently throughout the year. Things like which activities have higher revenues at which time of the year.... Really, it takes a whole year to go through the process. I'm just looking for a little consistency, I guess.