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CAFO TJ Plante Thanks Mayor Sarno After 16-Year Career of Strong Financial Leadership; Moving on to Private Sector

|   City News

Mayor Domenic J. Sarno announced today that long-time Chief Administrative and Financial Officer (CAFO) TJ Plante will be stepping down after 16-years of sound, prudent and strong financial leadership with the City of Springfield. Serving as the CAFO for Mayor Sarno, Plante has advanced and implemented numerous successful fiscal management policies and initiatives for Mayor Sarno that have been beneficial and sustainable for the City of Springfield’s Fiscal Budget and financial health and operations.

Plante was initially hired in 2007 as the Budget Director under the state imposed Financial Control Board that was appointed by then-Governor Mitt Romney when Springfield was on the brink of bankruptcy, facing a $41 million deficit and junk bond status.  As part of the state legislation that returned the City of Springfield to Home Rule, Massachusetts General Law (M.G.L.), Chapter 468 of the Acts of 2008, the position of CAFO was created to oversee all aspects of municipal financial matters and report directly to the mayor.  In 2010, Lee Erdmann, who had over 30-years of city management and administrative experience serving as Budget Director for the City of Hartford and Town Manager of Wethersfield, CT, was tapped as the first official CAFO, replacing Financial Control Board Executive Director Stephen Lisauskas who had been serving as the acting CAFO.  In 2012, Erdmann stepped down and TJ Plante, who had been serving as Finance Director at the time, was named acting CAFO and later selected as the CAFO by Mayor Sarno and the CAFO search committee.

Plante served as an integral part of the Sarno Administration throughout his career with the City of Springfield.  Some notable highlights and accomplishments during his tenure as CAFO working with Mayor Sarno on Springfield’s Resurgence and Renaissance include:

  • Working under Mayor Sarno’s leadership, brought Springfield back from the brink of financial collapse, facing a $41 million deficit and junk bond status (From 1997-2007 city had a Baa3 credit rating, equating to junk bond status), to having a significant and health stabilization reserve account of over $68 million and the highest bond rating in the city’s history at AA- bond rating from Standard and Poor’s.
  • Streamlined municipal procurement procedures which saved time and money.
  • Oversaw the integration efforts to enhance the city’s core accounting functions including general ledger, payroll, accounts payable, accounts receivable, contract management, tracking and more.
    • Measures helped to reduce overtime expenses and eliminate fraud
  • Oversaw the implementation of measures to collect over $42 million in back taxes dating back to the 1990’s, including $2.5 million in back taxes owed by bars.
  • 9 consecutive balanced Fiscal Year (FY) Budgets, without the use of reserves, with most recent FY24 Budget being $878 million
    • Maintaining and enhance all core city services and personnel while continuously building up reserves to support the city’s financial health to guard against future economic unknowns such as recessions, natural and man-made disasters, etc.
  • Oversaw all aspects of municipal finances and emergency budgeting, tracking and record keeping for city records, MEMA and FEMA, through a number of natural and man-made disasters.
    • 2011 tornado
      • Taking advantage of FEMA programs to reallocate recovery funds to advance certain eligible projects resulted in the city only paying 13% of a $97 million rebuilding effort.
    • 2011 freak October Nor’easter snow storm
    • 2012 gas explosion
    • COVID-19 pandemic
  • Provided steady and sound fiscal leadership through numerous economic challenges and recessions.
  • Oversaw all municipal projects and Capital Improvement Plans
    • $750 million building new schools (Brightwood/Lincoln & DeBerry/Swan) and renovations to existing schools – most in the State
    • Over $5 billion in public and private economic development projects citywide
    • Over $100 million investment into city parks
    • $1.3 billion 2024-2028 Capital Improvement Plan
  • Working with Chief Development Officer Tim Sheehan, oversaw Springfield’s budgeting of the $123 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding for COVID-19 recovery and reinvestment aspects.
  • Working with Patrick Sullivan, Executive Director of Parks, Building and Recreation Management, helped to implement Mayor Sarno’s Climate Action and Resilience Plan for Springfield.
    • 26% reduction in city energy consumption over the last decade, saving over $3.5 million a year in energy related expenses
    • Green Municipal Aggregation Program to provide utility relief for residents
    • Purchase of solar energy to reduce municipal electric expenses
  • Per Mayor Sarno’s direction, implemented tax relief measures for residents.  Also, working with City Councilors Tim Allen and Attorney Michael Fenton, continued to boost Springfield Pension Reserve Fund, and oversaw innovative investment strategies of city’s certified free cash
    • Invested $45 million from city’s stabilization reserve account into United States Treasure Notes – Return on Investment (ROI) approximately $2 million
      • $2 million from ROI put into tax relief to offset property tax levy
    • Invested $15 million from FY23 certified free cash into Springfield Pension Reserve Fund (SPRF)
      • Investment would bring total amount in SPRF approximately to $17 million
      • Invested $17 million from SPRF into US Treasury Notes
        • Interest would yield an estimated $769,000
    • Invested $6.7 million from FY23 certified free cash into Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) for city retirees
      • Investment would bring total amount in OPEB Trust to approximately $13 million
      • Invested $13 million from OPEB into US Treasury Notes
        • Interest would yield an estimate $590,000
    • Per Mayor Sarno’s direction, put certified free cash to offset tax levy to provide financial relief for taxpayers
      • FY23, allocated $10 million to offset tax levy
      • FY22, allocated $2.5 million to offset tax levy
      • FY21, allocated $1 million to offset tax levy
  • Received numerous fiscal and financial leadership awards and recognitions:
    • 2022 Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) Hero Award
    • GFOA prestigious Certificate of Achievement for Excellent in Financial Reporting – 12 years
      • Highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting

Mayor Sarno states, “Bitter-sweet, TJ Plante aka ‘Mr. Scotch!’, has been one of my most dedicated and trusted Cabinet Heads.  His time as part of my administration was invaluable, as he spearheaded the financial aspects for a number of my administration’s initiatives and programs.  From making sure that our city had a balanced budget without the use of reserves for 9 consecutive years, to overseeing the various finances for our city projects, TJ epitomized a true public servant.  He truly played an integral role in my administration’s efforts bringing our Springfield back from the brink of bankruptcy and helping to navigate the financial aspects during the various natural and man-made disasters, to the resurgence and renaissance we are now experiencing.  On behalf of the City of Springfield, and from myself personally, thank you for your service to our Springfield community.  We wish you continued success as you move on to this career opportunity.” 

TJ Plante stated, “It has been an honor to serve the City of Springfield.  I have dedicated over 16 years to helping Springfield return to its true greatness and bring us to solid financial footing.  Although I am exiting public service, my wife Katie and I are committed to the City and want to see Springfield thrive.  I want to thank Mayor Sarno for his support/leadership through the years, and more specifically his friendship.  Together we have been through some challenging times, but always came out stronger from them.”

Plante’s last day is Friday, September 22nd.  Per M.G.L., Chapter 468 of the Acts of 2008, Mayor Sarno will initiate the selection process by giving notice of his intention to establish a screening committee to review applicants for the position.  Said committee shall consist of 7 members, including appointees from the School Committee, City Council and State Secretary of Administration and Finance.  The mayor shall appoint 4 other members to the screening committee, 2 of whom shall be experts in municipal management.

The screening committee shall recommend to the mayor the names of not less than 2, or more than 5 candidates whom it believes to be best suited to perform the duties of the CAFO.  Mayor Sarno will select 1 of the candidates recommended by the screening committee to serve as the new CAFO.  If he finds that no such candidate to be qualified for the office, he shall direct the screening committee to reopen the search.

During this transition, Mayor Sarno has selected, per M.G.L. Chapter 468 of the Acts of 2008, the well-respected City Comptroller Patrick Burns, who brings a wealth of financial acumen, to be the acting CAFO.  He will work closely with Deputy CAFO Lindsay Hackett, which will assure our strong and prudent financial discipline continues.

Acting CAFO Patrick Burns said, “I would like to thank the Mayor for giving me the opportunity to bridge the gap until a permanent Chief Administrative and Financial Officer (CAFO) is appointed.  Also, I want to thank T.J. Plante for his leadership and support during his tenure as CAFO, and I wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”

Page last updated:  Tuesday, March 1, 2022 01:32 pm