Vyto Starinskas / Staff Photo ¬ Rutland City Treasurer Wendy Wilton was endorsed by former Gov. James Douglas, right, during her announcement for treasurer for the State of Vermont.
Who saved Rutland?
City Treasurer Wendy Wilton and her supporters have repeatedly pointed to the improvement in Rutland’s finances as she seeks to take over the state treasurer’s office.
A Vermonters First television commercial supporting Wilton proclaims that she “turned Rutland’s $5 million deficit into a $3.8 million surplus.” Wilton’s own campaign literature is phrased more soberly, saying she “led Rutland” from the deficit to a “positive fund balance.”
While published reports have proclaimed the cited numbers are open to interpretation, nobody denies that the city’s finances have vastly improved. How much of it was Wilton?
Mayor Christopher Louras said the turnaround was a team effort.
“I give a lot of credit to the department heads and the workers for recognizing the need for honest budgets and to save as much money as we could,” he said.
Louras said information provided by Wilton’s office was essential in forging those budgets and realizing those savings.
“It was absolutely accurate, real-time information we could count on to make decisions,” he said.
While Wilton’s actions as treasurer were what Louras would expect to see from any professional, the mayor said professionals don’t always give policy makers everything they need.
“I don’t know if it’s above and beyond, but the work Wendy has done and the information she has provided was top-tier and above the norm,” he said.
So, if forced to give one person the most credit, who would Louras nominate?
“It would be just like when they gave the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU — I credit everybody,” he said. “I think a great deal of the credit goes to the department heads, but without the information provided by Wendy and her office it wouldn’t have been possible.”
Former alderman David Dress served as chairman of the finance committee during the turnaround and said it happened because Wilton changed how the city treasurer’s office operated.
“The audits that had preceded Wendy and the first few she presided over pointed out a lot of control issues,” he said. “She did some things at times that, frankly, I don’t think the board was very comfortable with but I think they weren’t comfortable with it because she was trying to force them to do their jobs, which was be policy-makers.”
Dress said Wilton led the board down the path to better accounting procedures. Any notion that any competent treasurer would have done the same, he said, discounts the condition of the city finances prior to Wilton and the difficulty of some of the changes she made, like switching to new accounting software.
“That takes an incredible amout of work,” he said. “Forget the fact you’re doing it without the benefit of having good control practices in place. She had to do both and, to do that, I think that’s what separated her from any other competent treasurer.”
Dress credited a steely quality of Wilton’s personality with getting her through the necessary changes.
“She has a discipline and a determination to see something done in the correct manner,” he said. “When things are not easily accomplished, she won’t give up on it.”
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