Not Just Playing With Numbers: Finance Team Keeps Wellington In The Black

Not Just Playing With Numbers: Finance Team Keeps Wellington In The Black

Wellington’s Office of Financial Management and Budget is setting the standard for practice and policy across the nation. More than just the purse strings for the village, OFMB is directly connected to every department — and every resident.

“We monitor all revenues and expenses for the village, and we provide services that the customers need, want and are willing to pay for,” said Controller Ana Acevedo, who has been with Wellington for five years. “In the finance department, we work very closely with all departments in the village, and I just enjoy seeing how our tax dollars are put to work.”

After 14 years on the job, Budget Director Christine Wadleigh knows the ins and outs of making things work for everyone.

“We give the financial support and guidance to all the other departments. We make the connection between what the residents see and the requirements that any government has to meet according to statutes and law,” Wadleigh explained. “We do the financial reporting, and then prepare and present a balanced budget. We make the translation between the fun stuff that everybody sees and the finances that make it happen.”

As a department centered around planning, OFMB is all about being prepared for the future.

“During the Great Recession, many local governments experienced debilitating hardships,” Acevedo said. “Wellington was able to continue to meet the needs of the residents during this difficult time by evaluating economic conditions and planning well for unforeseen events. I think that’s what finance is all about — planning ahead. We assisted with cost-cutting measures that kept the village running leanly while maintaining our excellent financial position.”

OFMB is not the largest department in Wellington’s government, but it touches every aspect. Between the purchasing, budget and accounting sections, approximately 20 people are tasked with crunching the numbers.

“We developed a priority-based budget model that every department completes, and it allows them to rank their budget requests,” Wadleigh said. “They do an awesome job of prioritizing, and I call them budgeteers.”

Another key step to this ranking system involves identifying all the core activities in Wellington and making sure those are funded.

“We implemented an annual budget survey, probably 10 years ago now, that really provides insight on the items that are important to the residents. That helps us to prepare our budget knowing that we are meeting the needs of our residents,” Wadleigh said. “We even identify the higher level, quality of life community add-on activities and make sure those are funded.”

Getting the community to participate in surveys is no easy task. Other government agencies throughout Florida have tried and failed, so crafting questions that people want to take the time to answer is an art form in itself.

“I gave a presentation on it to the Florida Government Finance Officers Association in June, and many others have had difficulties getting it off the ground. We’ve had great support here,” Wadleigh said.

The results have received not only attention, but awards.

“I am extremely proud of the awards that the finance department has received throughout the years,” Acevedo said. “In 2019, we received a certificate of excellence award for our investment policy. This is awarded for investment policies that have been reviewed and professionally accepted by the Association of Public Treasuries of the United States and Canada.”

OFMB has also earned many recognitions from the national Government Finance Officers Association, including a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for 22 consecutive years.

The GFOA has also bestowed upon Wellington its Popular Annual Financial Reporting Award for eight straight years. This award specifically refers to the creation of reports that are easily accessible and understandable to the general public.

The department’s proficiency in everything from policy documentation and organization to financial planning has also earned them the GFOA’s Award for Distinguished Budget Presentation for the past 23 years.

Past successes support a strong track record, but the department is always looking ahead.

“Our future plans are to always continue to meet the future economic challenges. We update our forecasting every year and want to keep Wellington in its current excellent financial position,” Wadleigh said. “That also means being able to change with the times and being aware of what’s going on out there and making sure we recommend financial and policy changes to keep ourselves in a good position, no matter what happens.”

There is also an internal plan in place to keep the department running at peak efficiency.

“We want to continue to grow our department and promote from within like a succession plan,” Acevedo said. “In the finance office, it is critical to cross-train to make sure that if anyone is out, we always have someone to cover during their absence.”

Both Acevedo and Wadleigh give much of the credit for their success to Director of Administrative and Financial Services Tanya Quickel.

“Tanya Quickel really just brings a great and welcoming culture. We meet weekly to discuss everything that’s going on,” Acevedo said. “It’s just a family, a home away from home. Our leadership is just exceptional.”

Wadleigh said that Quickel allows everyone to leverage each other’s strengths.

“We all respect that everyone’s strengths come together as a great team,” Wadleigh said. “We’ve got super-talented, devoted people. Even at quitting time, they’re not going home. They stay until the job is done.”

The pieces of Wellington’s government strive to fit together, working toward a common goal for the community.

“Our goal continues to be a great hometown, and that’s our mission and our vision for the village,” Acevedo said.