The Tools We Use Evolve and Improve Over Time… Is Your Finance Office Using the Latest Tools To Best Serve Your Taxpayers?

By William Cherry
Former County Treasurer and current Director of Public Partnerships at three+one

Technology has changed our world in ways we couldn’t have imagined just a few years ago and it has vastly improved the tools that we use in our daily lives. For example, advances in communications technology have transformed cell phones from an occasional convenience item to now being a basic necessity of daily life in America.

The tools that we use in our roles as county finance officers have evolved as well.  We rely on computers, microprocessors, and financial software to quickly, efficiently, and more accurately perform the tasks that we once had to do by hand.

For example, 25 years ago when I began my career as an elected treasurer and CFO for a county in upstate New York, all of the county’s delinquent property tax records were kept on individual 5”x8” paper index cards! Each of the 22,000 parcels had a corresponding index card that contained the tax-map number, the current owner’s name and address, a history of tax bills issued and payments made, and the status of any unpaid tax amounts.  New entries were made by hand as payments were received or new tax bills were issued.

One of my first acts as the incoming CFO was to digitize these files in order to reduce human error and prevent fraud. I also wanted to preserve property tax records in a more permanent format and to make the operations of the finance office generally more efficient through the use of latest technology at that time.

As County Treasurer, I was also responsible for the investment of public funds entrusted to my care while those funds remained on deposit. Safety of principal should always be the top priority of any public finance officer, but strategically investing those funds in ways that would maximize interest income was also an important fiduciary responsibility.

Back in 1996, that meant weekly inquiries faxed to local banks asking for rate quotes on 30- and 90-day CD’s. I would then combine that information with rough “back-of-the-envelope” calculations to determine how much cash I felt I could confidently invest while still having sufficient liquidity to satisfy upcoming expenditures. It was, at best, an inexact science. If I had access to the kind of precise financial data, accurate forecasting, and rate information that are available today, I’m positive that I could have significantly increased my county’s interest income.

Thankfully, times change and tools improve.  three+one® has incorporated the very latest financial technology into our cashVest® program. It helps finance officials know precisely how much liquidity they have available to invest, and accurate time-horizon future forecasts of how long those funds can be confidently invested before they will be needed. When combined with the peer interest-rate benchmarking that we provide covering local, regional, and statewide banks, you have an independent, third-party perspective that ensures your public entity’s liquidity is performing at the highest-possible levels.

Altogether, these data provide you with the confidence that you are doing everything you possibly can to maximize non-tax revenue streams. Maybe that’s why the National Association of Counties (NACo) and Michael Sanderson and the great team at MACo both fully endorse our services.

The author served for a total of 38 years in local government at the village, town, and county levels, including 24 years as a County Treasurer/CFO responsible for investing public funds. He can be reached by phone at 585-484-0311, ext. 709 or by email at wec@threeplusone.us

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