Henry’s chief financial officer, Meghan Coates, who has received high praise during her brief tenure in the county, is leaving next month for a position at the University of Richmond.
Coates has helped the county through its last two budgets, leading an 11th-hour effort to slash the proposed 2020-21 fiscal year plan by $ 99 million in March 2020 – immediately after the onset of the pandemic and just on time. where the county supervisory board was preparing to weigh the original plan.
At UR, Coates will become Associate Vice President for Financial Planning and Budget.
Under his leadership, the county shifted last year from an annual budget allocation process to a quarterly process, to more accurately reflect potential month-to-month income changes in light of the uncertainty caused by the pandemic. He continued that approach this year, and thanks to a combination of better-than-expected tax revenues, significant federal funding for pandemic relief, and Henrico’s pursuit of his historically conservative approach to budgeting, the county is now in thin air financially.
Henrico County Director John Vithoulkas has publicly praised Coates’ efforts on numerous occasions during his two-year tenure in the county, including earlier this month. She came to Henrico in 2019, after nearly 12 years in Chesterfield County, including six months as Director of Budget and Management.
“As the former chief financial officer of this county, [and] former budget manager, I can tell you that the finances of this county have never been managed so well, ”Vithoulkas told supervisors during a working session on September 14. “This young woman has done an amazing job for this county, and I just want to publicly recognize her efforts and successes. We are in a situation where we end this year with the strongest financial position we have ever had, and that is due in large part to the stewardship of Ms. Coates.
The county’s balance of funds – the difference between its financial assets and financial liabilities – was nearly $ 275 million as of June 2020, with $ 135 million not earmarked for future projects. Once an ongoing financial audit is completed and presented to the supervisory board in November, this total will increase. The unallocated amount of the “Rainy Day Fund” is a key element in helping Henrico maintain its AAA rating with the three major bond issuers, which keeps its interest rates low and saves it money. million dollars when he sells bonds to pay. infrastructure projects, such as the construction of schools or roads.
Henrico has also saved millions by refinancing outstanding bonds over the past two years.
Coates was considered a rising star in county government. Hired as Deputy Chief Financial Officer, she took up her role as Acting Director in November 2019 and was appointed to this position on a permanent basis in August 2020.
She likened her approach to finance as being similar to that of a chess match, in which it is always necessary to think several steps ahead and evaluate all the choices and potential outcomes. This mindset, she said, has helped her prepare for the unexpected challenges created by the pandemic.
“This is the game in finance, you play chess every day,” she said. “For me, what I learned is that this kind of strategic thinking and this kind of work ethic where you make sure you always have choices and options has turned out to be really valuable. [during the pandemic.]”
Coates has made it a priority to help finance staff better understand their roles and better interact with citizens, she said, helping them to be creative and develop new approaches at the same time.
“I feel pretty good about the progress that has been made and the leadership that I have been able to provide,” Coates told The Citizen. “I am reassured to know that I am leaving the county in a better situation than I found it. We did a great job, but Henrico was already in a very good position when I arrived here.
Her decision to leave Henrico was in part the result of the pandemic and the perspective it offered on what was most important to her personally, she said. A recent trip back to Roanoke College, her alma mater, reminded her how invigorated she felt during this time in her life and prompted her, on a whim, to consider job openings at the ‘UR, which had an opening.
In her new role, she will lead the university’s financial planning and budgeting, including strategic planning and setting long-term financial goals, she said.
While she’s thrilled to be starting UR, she said she’ll miss being able to witness the impact some of her decisions have had on the county.
“It has always been gratifying to feel that I am contributing to the community, that I can see the road that I have helped fund or that I can see children entering the school that I have helped sell bonds for. She said.
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