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The Govie with the Money

This interview is an excerpt from GovLoops recent guide, The Workforce Behind State and Local Government. Download the full guide here.

Darius Shahinfar, City Treasurer, City of Albany

Job Description

Shahinfar is an elected official and functions as the Chief Financial Officer in the city of Albany. His responsibilities include all things financial, which ranges from receiving taxes to ensuring parking violations are paid. Essentially, Shahinfar handles the intake and outflow of all city money.

Overcoming Challenges

The most significant challenge Shahinfar and his department face is modernizing the office environment and processes. The lack of modernization has particularly impacted tax system software. “Every year we go through the same issue of making sure our tax information is updated accurately so bills go to the right people and we are accounting for monies properly,” he said. Updating files is cumbersome and could be done more efficiently with more innovative processes.

Despite these challenges, Shahinfar emphasized, “we have our system down pretty well.” For example, even though there are no lawyers in his department, they function as such when they adjudicate parking tickets. By tackling this challenge head on, the department has worked out the kinks and has been able to provide customers with the service they need to navigate the adjudication process.

Why the Job Matters

“The cash inflow and outflow to the city is up to $176 million this year,” Shahinfar said. This in and of itself is a huge responsibility. Shahinfar, however, has gone above and beyond to innovate in the position. “I have the opportunity to make some overdue changes in City Hall that would allow my government and my city to operate as best as it can,” he said.

One of the programs Shahinfar implemented was a Food for Fines drive. He explained that the department wanted to make a dent in unpaid parking tickets, so it initiated the program where people would have their unpaid parking fines waived in return for donations to regional food pantries. At the end of the program, the department raised about $300,000 and was able to erase 5,000 tickets off the books.

How the Job Impacts Government

Shahinfar explained that his department is “more or less the bank for the city government.” This means that Shahinfar’s office not only pays the bills and makes sure that agencies’ lights are kept on, but it also handles all agency procurement requests. When requests come in, the Treasury Department ensures that any sort of procurement comports with the budget. Essentially, Shahinfar and his team make sure that the monies it sends out are appropriated properly to the budgetary process.

Tech Component

Despite the challenges the department has faced with modernizing technology, Shahinfar emphasized that it is crucial to day-to-day processes. The ability to utilize technology has allowed Shahinfar’s team to track things more efficiently and make fewer mistakes. If mistakes are made, he underscored that they are much easier to fix with the help of automated processes.

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Sabrina Kusek

I don’t live in Albany but kudos for the great idea to pay for parking tickets by
donating to food pantries. Great incentive for people to give back to their communities and help the city clear fines off the books. Now why can’t our entire government come up with these types of great ideas. Give that man a raise!