CAPE ELIZABETH — The town will hire a municipal finance director early next year, addressing a growing need for budget accountability that town councilors have been mulling for several years and that an independent audit found lacking in fiscal 2017.

Town Manager Matt Sturgis posted the new position Thursday on the Maine Municipal Association’s website. The Town Council authorized the hiring on Dec. 10, creating the position in addition to the school business manager’s role, which has shared budgeting duties with the town manager for decades.

“We were getting to the point of recognizing the need for a finance director due to the increasing volume of work and specialized reporting required for both the town and the schools,” Sturgis said Thursday.

Council Chairman Jamie Garvin noted that most neighboring towns of similar size and municipal operations have finance directors.

“Cape Elizabeth had become an outlier,” Garvin said. “For several years, the council has recognized the need to take a different approach to budget matters.”

The finance director would manage, develop and be accountable for all functions of the municipal finance department. The person would oversee a $12.4 million municipal budget, including more than $5 million in annual revenue, and serve as deputy tax collector, Sturgis said. Duties would encompass long-range planning, federal and state regulatory compliance, debt management and surplus fund investments.

The application deadline is Jan. 8. The salary range is $80,000 to $90,000. Sturgis hopes to have a candidate lined up by the end of January.

“We’d like to have someone come on board in early February to work on the next budget,” he said.

School Business Manager Catherine Messmer will remain in her position but will no longer have the responsibility to oversee municipal finances, Sturgis said. Other positions shared under the cost-saving “one-town concept” will continue to oversee both municipal and school operations, such as human resources and facilities management, he said.

Concerns about town finances mounted this year after certified public accountants at Runyon Kersteen Ouellette conducted an independent audit of the municipal and school accounting practices for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2017.

They flagged two “significant deficiencies” related to record-keeping. One deficiency was attributed to a software problem that left revenue and expenditure accounts out of balance. The other deficiency noted a failure to record $3.6 million in additional capital assets and the commingling of many capital expenditures in the school department.

The audit report noted two other “not significant” accounting deficiencies and indicated that town officials would rectify all of the problems.

Sturgis and Garvin said the decision to hire a municipal finance director wasn’t directly related to the audit report. However, they said they expected the municipal finance director to collaborate with the school business manager, who works in the school superintendent’s office at Town Hall.

“They will work in the same building,” Garvin said. “There are likely to be many opportunities for sharing best practices and improving both municipal and school operations.”

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: KelleyBouchard

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