SOUTH PORTLAND — Changes are sweeping through the city’s Finance Department.
The changes began in November, when Rob Coombs gave up his position as finance director to become the dean of finance at Southern Maine Community College.
Since then, Tracy Roy, a financial controller who has worked for the city since 2001, has been filling in as the interim director.
The city hired Freeport’s Finance Director Greg L’Heureux last month to take over city finances and since then he has been juggling budget responsibilities of both towns. He will start working full time in South Portland in March.
Meanwhile, Roy has been hired as Auburn’s finance director, starting in March.
City Manager Jim Gailey said that he is disappointed that Roy will be leaving the city, but is happy that she was able to advance her career. Roy, a Lisbon resident, began working in the public sector in 2001, when she became an accountant for the city.
“Tracy has been a valued employee,” Gailey said. “She was looking for a new challenge and increased responsibility in the financial world, so we’re happy she landed a director’s position.”
Gailey predicted a smooth transition when L’Heureux takes over the department.
L’Heureux has a business degree from the University of Maine at Orono. He worked for Runyon Kersteen Ouelette in South Portland for 12 years, specializing in municipal auditing, before entering the public sector. He has worked in Freeport for the last six years.
While historical knowledge of the city’s finances is important, Gailey said L’Heureux has experience working with the same financial software for the town of Freeport.
“There will probably be a hiccup here and there,” Gailey said. “But the city’s department heads know their budgets, so they will be able to guide him through the process.”
Although he has only been working two days a week in South Portland, L’Heureux is already making a mark.
At a recent City Council workshop, the Scarborough resident suggested the city create a tax stabilization fund, which would help the city during economic crises. He established such a fund in Freeport, which can now begin drawing down its $1 million balance to minimize tax increases.
Freeport Town Council Chairman Rich Degrandpre credited L’Heureux’s conservative budgeting as being key to the town’s AA credit rating.
“The tax stabilization fund has proven to be especially valuable to the town,” Degrandpre said.”With Greg’s guidance, we have been able to keep taxes stable.”
Gailey said the city will look to create its own stabilization fund, but warned that the timing would have to be right. Such funds would have to be created during a growing economy, rather than a recession, he said.
The city will soon begin advertising for a new financial controller.