New Jefferson Hills leader covets opportunity to make difference
Wayne Jones wants to have an answer ready for everyone who calls the Jefferson Hills municipal offices with questions about their tax dollars.
Parks, police, fire, emergency services, sewers and clean roads -- it's all provided through that one sum paid to the borough each year.
“I want to be able to assure any resident that calls that we're spending their money wisely. I want the residents to feel that their money is well spent,” said Jones, 58, of Wyano, Pa., who took over as the borough's finance officer about four weeks ago and was named interim borough manager this month. He will oversee Jefferson Hills' $8.8 million general fund budget.
Jones replaces Andrew McCreery as finance officer and interim borough manager. McCreery left Jefferson Hills to take a job in Mt. Lebanon as finance director in September.
The borough manager position has been filled on an interim basis while borough Manager Douglas Arndt has been on a leave of absence since March for personal reasons.
Before being hired for the position, Jones said he reviewed Jefferson Hills' budget.
“I can see that there's an opportunity to improve the borough,” Jones said. “I like to have the opportunity to make a difference.”
But he doesn't plan to make any hasty changes.
“My first goal is to see what they are doing and see how is it working,” Jones said. “Then I will look at, are there changes that are needed?”
In Ross Township, that included bond refinancing and changing health care providers to save money.
In Wilkinsburg, it was getting the financial records audited, like they're required to be, Jones said.
One issue that stands out with the Jefferson Hills budget is that officials have been using the municipality's reserve fund to balance the budget, he said.
“It's not a crisis today,” Jones said. But, it's something that needs to be looked at and cost cutting plans implemented, he said.
A draft of the budget was put on display this month and includes no proposed real estate tax increase. The borough's real estate taxes are set at 5.63 mills, with 5.08 going toward the general fund, .45 mills going toward fire service and .10 going toward ambulance service. One mill brings in about $600,000.
Jones has a long history of financial experience.
“The truth is, I liked them all,” Jones said of his many careers and school choices.
His last municipal job was in Ross, where he worked for six years and served as finance director and township manager. Prior to that, Jones worked in Wilkinsburg for three and a half years as finance director. He also worked in the financial office for Allegheny Power for seven years and a manufacturing company for 13 years.
Since leaving Ross in August 2012, Jones has managed an LLC company that purchased rental properties, where he now serves as a non-active partner.
In Jefferson Hills, Jones said, he would like to look at making operational improvements.
“No one has time to waste,” Jones said.
The new hire, though, commended borough staffers on a job well done working for nearly a month without a borough manager.
“We have a very good staff,” Jones said. “They know their jobs.”
Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or firstname.lastname@example.org.