It’s 7:30 a.m. and the staff at the Vinton Treasurer’s Office begins to arrive at work for a day full of the unexpected. The office is open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Those set hours are one of the few aspects of their jobs that the employees can depend on.
Many governments have separate Treasurer’s Offices and Finance Departments, but in small towns like Vinton, often they are combined into one.
Some of the responsibilities of the combined Treasurer’s Office and Finance Department in Vinton are collecting and accounting for all funds received and expended in the town, managing town investments, assisting auditors, and billing and collecting taxes, utility payments, and other miscellaneous payments. They are also responsible for accounts payable and receivables, purchase orders, and payroll.
The Finance Department accomplishes these tasks with five full-time positions: Treasurer/Finance Director, Senior Financial Analyst, Financial Services Analyst, and two Customer Service Assistant/Accounting Technicians, and with part-time employees as needed.
Town Treasurer/Finance Director Anne Cantrell
Vinton resident Anne Cantrell serves as Town Treasurer and Finance Director— a position appointed by Town Council. She got her start in finance working in banking while she was a student majoring in accounting at Liberty University. She came to work in the Vinton Finance Department when Barry Thompson was Town Treasurer and Finance Director. When he was appointed town manager, Cantrell was named to his position. Prior to working for the town, she served as a Financial Analyst for Roanoke County and as a staff accountant for the Cherry Bekaert, LLP, accounting firm.
Cantrell says she chose to work for the Town of Vinton because she likes the small-town atmosphere, having grown up in the Town of Bedford. She feels that Vinton is a good fit. Accountants generally choose a special area of focus in their careers— corporate, governmental, non-profit. For her, it is about “serving the community.”
Cantrell is ultimately responsible for the “collection, administration, accounting, and dispersal of town funds,” with a current annual budget of $12.1 million and capital assets at the end of 2017 valued at $27 million.
She says she is always cognizant of the fact that she has been entrusted to work with taxpayer dollars— that the Town of Vinton is not a profit-earning business and that she is responsible for “getting the best deal we can for the taxpayer in all instances.”
Other than her hours, Cantrell says there really is no typical day. She is tugged to deal with issues in all departments of the town, so no two days are the same.
She works with the public, town officials, approximately 85 town employees, members of other governmental agencies, bankers, and vendors on a regular basis.
In working with customers on billing issues, Cantrell says her goal is to be fair and equitable to all, realizing that every disputed bill can’t be adjusted.
She supervises the four other full-time employees in the Finance Department and any part-time employees needed throughout the year.
Senior Financial Analyst Lydia Verdillo
Lydia Verdillo has been with the Town of Vinton for 12 years and serves as Senior Financial Analyst. She was born in the Philippines where she earned a degree in Elementary Education and another in Commerce with a major in accounting, and her Master’s in Business Administration.
The Vinton Treasurer’s Office will tell you their mantra is “reconcile, reconcile, reconcile.” Vinton residents can be assured that every transaction in the town is carefully tracked, recorded and balanced.
That may be one of the reasons the department has been awarded the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report Award (CAFR) for 22 straight years and the Distinguished Budget Awards Program recognition for the past two years from the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA).
Verdillo is the main “reconciler.” Accuracy is of paramount importance to her. She monitors, corrects, adjusts, analyzes, justifies, posts, and summarizes in reports almost every aspect of financial operations in the town.
Her first action each day is to log-on to the Wells Fargo Bank website to check the posting of deposits and disbursements and research any discrepancies, making sure that all are legitimate.
However, payroll is what consumes the largest part of her position. Verdillo says it is the “most sensitive task” she handles, and she takes the utmost care in fulfilling the responsibilities the task entails.
Verdillo was chosen as the Town of Vinton Employee of the Year in 2016– the first time the award was given as recognition for the “most exemplary employee.” One of several fellow employees who nominated her said, “It would easily take two positions to replace her knowledge, skills, and high work ethic.”
Financial Analyst Brandon Gann
Brandon Gann has been working as the Financial Services Analyst for the town since October 2016. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Virginia Tech in December 2011, as well as his Master’s in Public Administration and Graduate Certificate in Local Government Management.
He served as an intern in the Vinton Town Manager’s Office and Finance Department in 2013. He then worked for Roanoke County in the Purchasing Division of their Finance Department doing high-level procurements for multiple departments and assisted with implementation of its new financial system.
Gann says he “fell in love with Vinton” during the internships. He grew up in small town Covington and says he “could relate to the local townspeople that we serve. Vinton feels a lot like home.” He says he discovered a passion for local government working with Thompson and Cantrell.
Gann is responsible for procurement of goods and services after “a thorough analysis and evaluation of applicable data and reports based on established guidelines,” processing different forms of payments, maintaining capital asset records in the system, and analyzing and reconciling bank activities.
He prepares and issues Requests for Proposals (RFPs), evaluating proposals with departments, preparing price/cost analysis of products and services, assisting departments with awarding of contracts, processing purchase orders and invoices, reconciling bank statement activities, and processing various forms of payments.
During busy times in the Finance office, he assists with customer service and payments, and other related duties as assigned, pulled in wherever he is needed. He helps prepare the town budget and deals with the sale of surplus goods, posting what is available online.
Customer Service Assistant/Accounting Technician Paul Miller
Paul Miller started his career with the town in the Public Works Department in 2004 reading water meters until he completed his Business and Communications degree with Mississippi State University and took the opportunity to switch to the Finance Department in 2011. His official title is Customer Service Assistant/Accounting Technician.
His main focus is managing utility accounts– everything from monitoring the data received from meter readers to setting up and processing bills for residential and commercial accounts. Radio-read meters have slowly been implemented for commercial accounts, along with a few that are residential (about 200 residential at this time). The hope is to eventually have virtually all meters, both residential and commercial, read electronically from laptop computers instead of manually read.
Miller also helps with billing and tax questions from customers, checks disputed bills, and helps resolve the issues. The office handles billing and processing for 5,500 residential and billing customers in the town and East County, with a handful in Bedford.
On a typical day, he first balances the cash drawers, and then processes payments received electronically for both tax and utility bills. Throughout the day he continues to process utility readings as they are received— inputting them for billing. He makes tax corrections, answers the phone and helps citizens who call or come into the office.
Miller says that he and GinaMarie Overstreet are the first faces citizens, especially new citizens, see, representing the Town of Vinton. They are the first ones to explain the services provided in the town or East Roanoke County (in the case of water and sewer services)— they are, in effect, the de facto information center for the town.
Customer Service Assistant/Accounting Technician GinaMarie Overstreet
GinaMarie Overstreet is also a Customer Service Assistant/Accounting Technician for Vinton. She has worked in the Finance Department for four years. She started out her career in banking but was eager to take the job with the town when it came open.
She receives, scans and codes, and posts all receipts, and maintains the records for audit— usually hundreds of checks per day (525 is her record so far).
She starts out the day by opening the office doors, getting out the cash drawers, balancing the registers, and reconciling the previous day’s work.
She prepares deposits and scans checks for Wells Fargo. She reviews each check that passes through her hands for dates, signatures, and whether it is written correctly before submitting the deposit.
“Anything anyone pays for, we receive the money. It all stops here,” Overstreet said.
She says the best part of her job is the opportunity to deal with the public. She likes serving customers and simplifying things for them— not just assisting with setting up new accounts, or billing, or orientation for new citizens, but also helping entrepreneurs starting up new businesses in the town in completing their paperwork.
“It is good to be the easiest part of the process,” said Overstreet.
She and Miller often chat with new residents about programs offered at the Senior Center, the town’s special events (and associated street closings) and hand out copies of the acclaimed town calendar which contains a convenient synopsis of most everything you need to know about Vinton and its services.
Part-time Financial Analyst Lisa Greer
Lisa Greer has been working part-time in the Finance Department since January of this year, some 24-28 hours each week. She retired from a position in the Roanoke County Finance Department.
Her current duties include assisting the Senior Financial Analyst in accounts payable with vouchers and checks, reconciling real estate and property taxes, completing budget and journal entries, receiving W-9 forms from vendors, and helping with payroll by processing and distributing checks.
One might think that working with figures and statistics would be a very cut and dried profession, but there is a very human element to what the employees in the Vinton Treasurer’s Office/Finance Department do each day. Each bill, license, permit or overdue notice represents a person. The staff sees those same people month after month as they visit the office to drop off payments, ask questions, address issues, or talk about the pets they are buying animal licenses for. All of the employees truly see their job as being “community servants.”
After spending some time in the Finance Department office and hearing about the duties each employee is responsible for, the question is “How do they accomplish so much with just five employees, who seem to eat lunch at their desks everyday as they do the business of the town?”
Sincere thanks to the employees of the Treasurer’s Office/Finance Department for interrupting their busy days to share what they do and to Anne Cantrell for her great assistance in the writing and editing of this article.