Flynn: Yates County needs a finance director

Nonie Flynn, Yates County Treasurer and Administrator
Guest Essay, The Chronicle-Express

Having spent almost eight years in the position of Treasurer, and examining the operations of Yates County and the State of New York, I believe that now is an appropriate time for the Yates County voters to consider a change from an elected Treasurer position to a combination of an elected Treasurer with diminished responsibilities and an appointed Director of Finance for the term beginning January 1, 2022.

This option is being presented to the voters on their ballot for the general election this year as Proposition 2. It reads: “Shall the Local Law enacted by the Yates County Legislature on July 27, 2020 entitled ‘Local Law Retaining the Elected County Treasurer and Assigning Certain Powers and Duties to an Appointed Director of Finance’, which establishes the Department of Finance, effective January 1, 2022, to be headed by a Director of Finance appointed by the Yates County legislature and retains the elected position of County Treasurer; wherein certain powers and duties of the County Treasurer would be curtailed and assigned to the Director of Finance, be approved?”

This structure change would provide for the most efficient service to better serve the needs of today’s office and our citizens. Yates County is increasingly being required to administer various programs that are either unfunded or not adequately funded by the State and Federal governments. Such mandates, together with the revenue constraints of the County and the size of our over $45 million budget, require the best financial administration possible. An appointed position of Director of Finance would ensure the effective management of our County’s fiscal responsibilities. The Legislature would require a Director of Finance to have professional qualifications and a professional background and would be able to provide increased transparency and better direction, control, and coordination of governmental finances. Any private corporation with a budget as large as Yates County’s could not operate without a financial professional. Of the 57 counties in New York State, only eight list the Treasurer as the only finance-related position. Ontario and Seneca both have an elected Treasurer and a Director of Finance.

Some concerns that residents may have regarding this are addressed below.

1. Having an appointed person managing the finances as opposed to an elected person ensures effective management because if an appointed person is ineffective, the Legislature can terminate the person at any time with due process. An ineffective elected individual could not be removed prior to his/her four-year term of office.

2. The Legislature has no control over the level of transparency with an elected person. However, an appointed person would have to be fully transparent in sharing the financials with, at the very least, the Legislature.

3. Authority would not be taken away from the elected Treasurer because the position would continue as the Chief Fiscal Officer of the County and would continue with the powers and duties specified in the law. The Treasurer would have full access to all financial books and records of the County and therefore would provide the check and balance on the powers and duties assigned to the Director of Finance.

Based on a review of NYSAC’s 2020 Directory, of the 57 counties outside New York City, 39 have elected Treasurers, 10 have elected Comptrollers, 7 have Directors of Finance and 17 have Auditors. Not counting Yates, 44 list 2 or more separate and distinct Finance-related positions; only 8 list the Treasurer as the only Finance-related position.

Ontario and Seneca Counties both have an elected Treasurer and a Director of Finance. Ontario passed its Local Law in 2003 and Seneca in 2016

Thank you for your consideration of this very serious proposal. Please vote “Yes” on Proposition 2.