SILER CITY — With growth and change imminent in Siler City, Town Manager Hank Raper said he and other administrative staff are working to make various changes to the town’s departments and positions to accommodate an influx of new residents and businesses.
“Sometimes things happen that necessitate change,” Raper told the News + Record. “So when that happens, you do try to make the changes as adaptable for the town as possible and make sure that any changes that you make are the best practices to move the town forward.”
Raper, who became town manager last May, has overseen the split of the town’s Public Works and Utilities and the Planning and Community Development departments.
In addition, Raper has also been able to fill various administrative posts by hiring staff from larger municipalities. Two of the most recent include Jennifer Baptiste from the city of Fayetteville in the planning director role, and Cal Pettiford — who also worked for Fayetteville — as public works director.
A new challenge, however, lay on the horizon: Siler City’s Finance Director, Tina Stroupe, is leaving her position for a similar job with the city of Raleigh. Raper said her departure creates an opportunity to, once again, make arrangements within town administration that he believes will help the town prepare for incoming growth.
“We want to make sure that we structure the staff within the town in a way that’s conducive to a town that’s growing, and looks at the way ... and that matches the way town’s going to look like in the next few years,” Raper said.
Raper proposed a change to the finance department that would have the assistant finance director become the finance director, and the finance analyst become the assistant director.
This left the finance analyst position open, but Raper said he wants to reclassify that position to be a full-time budget manager who would work on developing the annual budget, and do budget analysis, on a year-round basis.
“One of the most important things as the town grows is to fully separate the budget process from the finance department itself,” Raper said. “Finance is very reactive by nature — it’s designed to do accounting work in response to something that’s already happened. … Budget is very focused on being proactive.”
Raper said the reason separation hadn’t occurred yet in Siler City was because the town wasn’t quite large enough to justify that split. With chip manufacturer Wolfspeed’s imminent arrival, though, Raper said now’s the time to start preparing for growth.
“I think we’re at the point now where it’s in our best interest to pull that out and have the budget be a 12-month process,” Raper said. “We’re quickly approaching the $20 million budget mark, and when you’re at that level, not only does it make more sense as a best practice by monitoring and managing that as a full-time responsibility, 365 days a year ... You will find things that will make your organization operate more efficiently and effectively throughout the year.”
Raper said the change would allow “for better evaluation and monitoring of the money in the town throughout the entire year … It puts us in a position to do a better job long-term forecasting and long-term financial planning.”
The reclassification of the financial analyst position won’t cost the town additional money; rather, it will actually save money, according to Raper.
He said he plans to move an existing employee to the new budget manager position, and then he will seek to hire a replacement at a lower compensation level.
Raper said the end goal of these various changes he’s proposed to the board is simple: Prepare the town for rapid growth in a way that keeps the town moving forward, all while working in the best interests of the residents.
“We want to make sure we are doing the right job for the public,” Raper said. “We want to make sure we’re meeting service demands and making sure we have the appropriate level of service we’re supposed to be providing.”
Taylor Heeden can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @HeedenTaylor.