FREEPORT — The town’s finance director has accepted a new job in South Portland, but will juggle two budgets as he splits his time in both towns through February.
Greg L’Heureux, a resident of Scarborough, said the short commute was a factor in his decision to become finance director in South Portland. He also said he was looking forward to the challenge the job will provide.
“I truly enjoyed my time in Freeport,” he said. “It was a very difficult decision to make. The people here are amazing.”
L’Heureux grew up in Maine and attended the University of Maine in Orono where he received a business degree with a concentration in accounting. He worked for Runyon Kersteen Ouellette in South Portland for 12 years and specialized in municipal auditing. He then moved to the municipal sector, where he worked as the financial director in Bath. He has worked in Freeport for about six years.
South Portland City Manager Jim Gailey said L’Heureux is very talented and the city is lucky to have him join their team. He said L’Heureux’s experience and background in municipal auditing makes for a compatible fit. He also said the progression to a larger community is a good professional step.
Gailey said the fact that L’Heureux is splitting his time between Freeport and South Portland is indicative of his work ethic. In January, L’Heureux worked three days a week in Freeport, and two in South Portland. This month, South Portland will get him three days a week.
“He is very loyal and wouldn’t think of jumping ship on Freeport,” Gailey said. “He gave them two months notice, and in making his decision thought of how it would impact the Freeport community.”
Starting March 1, L’Heureux will be in South Portland full time.
L’Heureux was instrumental in Freeport’s implementation of a tax rate stabilization fund.
According to L’Heureux, the fund functions like the state’s rainy day fund. When town projects generate revenue, he said it is wise to set some funds aside to balance the tax rate during difficult times.
“The thought is to use the money to help offset the tax rate in years like these,” he said. “Not to use it all at once, but to manage the tax rate for a few years until the cycle reverses.”
L’Heureux said there is about $1 million in Freeport’s tax stabilization account and he would recommend using it in decreasing amounts over a four-year period.
“I’m a big advocate of that thought process,” he said. “I’ve already talked to the South Portland council about a tax rate stabilization fund, too.”
Town Council Chairman Rich Degrandpre said L’Heureux has been very professional, patient and helpful during his time as financial director. He said L’Heureux will be greatly missed.
“Freeport is a very fiscally conservative town, and with Greg’s guidance, we have been able to keep taxes stable,” he said. “The tax stabilization account has proven to be especially valuable to the town.”
Town Manager Dale Olmstead said the tax rate stabilization fund has given Freeport taxpayers an additional layer of protection. He also said L’Heureux has helped elevate Freeport’s bond rating to AA, showing a very strong capacity for the town to meet financial obligations. Freeport is now one of a handful of towns in the state to have such a high rating.
“Greg is an exceptional financial director,” Olmstead said. “We are in better shape today than when he arrived.”
Olmstead said there were about two dozen applications for the finance director’s position, and said he is encouraged by their qualifications.
“We will have someone in place by mid-March,” he said.
Before he leaves Freeport, L’Heureux said he will have the capitol budget prepared to present to the council, and will be working on South Portland’s operating budget.
“I am trying to make sure all the pieces run smoothly during this transition,” he said.