Butler County still searching for finance director amid coronavirus challenges

Some Butler County officials are frustrated the county has not yet found a new finance director, but Administrator Judi Boyko said she’s confident the county will find the right fit soon.

Former Finance Director Tawana Keels left the position onFeb. 7 after seven years leading the county’s finance department. She told the Journal-News she took another job.

Boyko posted the position, with a salary range of $84,219 to $124,800, on Jan. 31, shortly after Keels announced she would resign. She received 50 applications for the job, interviewed five people in person and conducted one phone interview. She also brought three of those people back for a more in-depth discussion.

“I’ve not been able to find the right candidate which not only qualifies with all the necessary skill sets, but also, brings the right demeanor to an established team of department directors,” Boyko told the Journal-News. “It is discouraging the process is taking longer than expected; though, I know the ideal candidate is out there and circumstances haven’t aligned yet to connect. They will.”

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The county finance director manages the $416 million budget and this year will oversee the elimination of all general fund debt at the end of a years-long payoff plan. Keels left after the 2020 spending plan was passed, the tax budget planning is about to start and that document must be finalized this summer.

County Auditor Roger Reynolds’ staff and finance directors from other departments have been helping the county’s lone finance employee, budget analyst Bradley Dick.

Boyko said she will not re-post the position but will review previous applications and ask peers in other counties for potential candidates.

Commissioner Don Dixon said the lack of a finance director right now is not ideal but all tasks are being completed, even with uncertainty caused by actions related to the coronavirus.

“We can handle it, it’s not like bills are stacked up to the ceiling and nobody knows which drawer to look in,” Dixon said. “We’re OK, it’s just not critical at this point, we’ll find the right person.”

Commissioner T.C. Rogers said the county isn’t veering off its course to be debt-free by year’s end and and there is time before 2021 budgeting needs to begin.

“We’re at a window where we can get by. But if we don’t have one by the end of May, yeah, then I’ll be concerned,” Rogers said. “But right now we’re good.”

Commissioner Cindy Carpenter disagreed. She said Keels filled an essential role on the management team and someone is needed now to handle the finance department and anticipate potential pitfalls.

“I am very concerned, a finance director is not just an accountant,” Carpenter said. “At the high level in county government the finance director is a financial advisor specifically in this realm of complex government. It’s not just doing a spreadsheet for budget time. We are significantly lacking right now, we desperately need someone.”

The timing isn’t working in county’s favor either, given the pandemic.

“It’s really a bad time kind of to be looking to hire somebody,” Dixon said. “Because everybody is working from home, everybody is scared, nobody wants to move and I can’t blame them. They don’t know if their company is staying or going out. Whether they’ll have health care or not. Everybody just wants to stay where they are and keep their head down.”

Rogers said there could be some talented people suddenly laid off and looking for work.

Boyko said she and Dick are preparing to begin the tax budgeting process.

“Of course, the absence of a finance director makes the tax budget process more daunting,” she said. “Though, it is a great opportunity for me to drill deeply in the budget and for the budget analyst to really understand the statutory process.”

Boyko is also trying to hire a new director of assets, procurement and projects. Almost 100 people applied for the new position.

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