The Accounting team is using their combined years of experience to not only keep the Township running, but also to make it better and more efficient.
The Township’s Finance Department – also knowing as Accounting - currently consists of 4 members with a combined 13 years at Cheltenham: Nathan Crittendon, Danielle Pearson, Marquita Whitfield, and Daniel Hernandez. Nate worked as Cheltenham’s Accounting Supervisor from 2014-2017, and returned as the Township’s new Director of Fiscal Affairs in late 2020 after working as Director of Finance at Whitemarsh Township. With a strong, progressive team, he’s looking forward to making Department operations more proactive than reactive.
The Accounting Department is the driving force that supports the municipality by ensuring services are paid for and able to be provided to our residents. While they may not have the same amount of face-to-face interaction with the public as the Planning & Zoning or Parks & Recreation Departments, the Finance team members are the stewards of your tax dollars. Through invoicing processes, they interact with other departments to pay the bills – for everything from emergency tree work to playground maintenance to paper and ink! The Accounting staff members all worked in the office throughout the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns in order to keep all important processes flowing.
Danielle describes Accounting/Finance as the Central Nervous System of the Township. The weekly tasks of the department include cashiering, purchasing, completing earning analyses and other reports, payroll, and overseeing big projects and audits. They interact with all other departments through the budgeting process, tracking expenditures and revenues to balance the budget, and managing accounts payable and receivable. Accounting is involved in the planning process for many Township projects due to inflows and outflows of cash. The employees of the Accounting Department say their office near the building’s kitchen is like a water cooler where other staff can come and openly ask questions or brainstorm, so in the busy office, “You’re never bored and you get to meet everybody!”
In addition to working with all departments, they field calls from the public. One of the biggest confusions they get is residents asking tax questions. Because it varies in other townships, many residents may not realize that in Cheltenham, the Tax Office is a separate entity, and taxes do not flow through the Accounting Department. They also handle resident burglar alarm permits – and emphasized that the yearly permit renewal is $25 in January and February, but a $35 late fee is assessed after March 1. For other residents wondering whether the Township can take payment over the phone – the staff will not take phone payments, but do offer an online payment process which is safer and more secure.
“We all have to deal with things on the fly,” said Daniel, whose favorite part of his Accounting role is the variety of tasks that come his way. In the midst of any given day, the Accounting staff is always readjusting their priorities as staff members from other departments bring questions, invoices, and other issues to their attention.
Marquita made it a point to acknowledge, “We work as a team.” Perhaps what keeps the department moving so well is that while each staff has a general focus within the department (such as purchasing or payroll), they each know what the other members are responsible for, and can jump in to work on a project or complete a task for one another as the day’s priorities shift. Instead of working in silos, this approach allows for versatility and a more healthy dialogue about accounting processes, as the whole team is aware of the bigger picture.
Recently, the Accounting Department has been taking a look at all procedures, streamlining the approval process for expenditures, and making sure transparency is at the forefront of operations. They are auditing processes, contracts, and billing with a fine-toothed comb, identifying redundancies and following the Township Charter. The Accounting team is using their combined years of experience to not only keep the Township running, but also to make it better and more efficient. In recent months, they have implemented or bettered Township use of EZ pass, credit cards, Amazon, and a new accounting system.
The Finance team states the biggest challenge they face is doing right by both the employees and the taxpayers of the Township. They are continually striving to clean up processes and create needed change for the Township, but this becomes a multi-layered process. Their primary focus right now is identifying inefficiencies, coming up with step-by-step solutions, and then getting buy-in from the other employees impacted by those changes.
Nate says they combat this challenge with their biggest strength – generational awareness and understanding. “I encourage each of my staff to question the way things are done. They all bring both fresh eyes and varied education and experiences to the table, allowing them to question processes, rather than staying engrained in a ‘we've always done it this way’ mentality.”
The members of the Accounting Department support each other well, bring their best efforts to the office each day, and take the opportunities to further their education for the benefit of the Township. Daniel says, “Everyday, we are presented with different tasks, and we have the opportunity to fix a problem, better preparing us for the future.”