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Town moves toward hiring municipal finance director

After years of sharing the services of the School Department business manager, the town is looking to hire a director dedicated to managing municipal finances.

The Town Council on Dec. 10, 2018 approved a description for a new municipal finance director position, giving Town Manager Matthew Sturgis the go-ahead to begin recruiting. Plans are to have someone on-board just after the new year, which is also the half-way mark of the 2018-19 fiscal year.

"I think this is the right time and the right place," said Town Manager Matthew Sturgis.

Most of the functions in the description are currently performed by the school business office, some by the town clerk's, and some by himself, Sturgis said. Last spring, as councilors finalized the 2018-19 budget, there was support for establishing a new town position dedicated to managing and reporting municipal finances.

"I think this position could provide us with a better product, as well as ... free some time for other staff roles and responsibilities that may not be (their) specialty," he said.

Cape Elizabeth is unique in not having a dedicated municipal finance director, said council Chair Jamie Garvin. "On multiple occasions last year, our external auditors highlighted the fact that Cape Elizabeth is by far an outlier town among those in the area, and peer size communities, (in) not having that role," Garvin said.

But with a nearly $40 million combined annual town ($12 million) and school ($28 million) budget for 2019, and the sophistication now needed for accounting and reporting of municipal finances, Sturgis said he believed the time had come.

Councilors unanimously approved the job description, with the understanding that Sturgis will come back in January with a proposal for funding. He estimated the annual salary, based on comparable jobs in the area, at $80,000-$90,000.

"My desire would be to try to advertise this towards the end of the year ... and then try to get this person on board within the first month and have them ready to roll at the start of the (2019-2020) budget season," Sturgis said.

Funding the position for the last half of fiscal 2019 might come from unassigned fund balance, he said, but more exact figures and a funding proposal will be presented in January.