Independence finance director

Two candidates are vying for the full-time position of city finance director. Vern Blaze is running for re-election against Chris Zamborsky. The finance director serves a four-year term and will receive a yearly salary of  $100,000.

Following are questions posed to the candidates by Independence Today magazine. Their answers were limited to 225 words. Following are their unedited responses. ∞

Note: Questionnaires from the mayor and city council candidates will be featured in the November issue of  Independence Today.

  1. How should the city manage the potential loss of income tax as more companies switch to a remote workforce?

Blaze: By the time-tested formula – continuing to focus on business retention, attraction and growth. Businesses are constantly in flux, and although Independence has seen some departures, it has seen new businesses like Garland Industries and MAI Capital attracted to Independence recently and already become top taxpayers. CBIZ was retained and has grown into a top taxpayer.

A soon-to-be completed building on Pleasant Valley will be 100% occupied when it opens up – both businesses being new to Independence. Weltman Weinberg & Reis will relocate to Independence in 2024 and will immediately be a top taxpayer.

The city can, should and will continue to retain, attract and grow businesses.

Zamborsky: This is no longer a “potential loss” of income tax. Per Finance Director Blaze’s own reports, payroll tax collection has been essentially flat for 6 years. This requires the city to be more efficient with our money.

I have spent my entire career implementing budget and cost control for companies such as Gillette, Southern Company, and L’Oreal. Independence does little or none of the following pertaining to capital spending management:

• Cost/benefit analysis

• Return on investment analysis

• Professional project management

These are standard best practices in the real world; as finance director, I will implement these critically needed best practices.

  • How will you ensure transparency in the city’s financial reporting?

Blaze: Go to the finance department’s link on the city website, and you will see excellence in financial transparency. Not only are the audited reports posted, but a number of very informative reports I produce each month are also posted for 100% financial transparency. These reports are very simple to understand, even for non-financial people. 

Zamborsky: Through KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators), I will present monthly, quarterly, and annual charts of important data. Examples:

• New jobs added

• Net company additions/losses

• Growth/shrink of internal (city jobs)

• Growth/shrink of contractor spending

  • What is your strategy for keeping the city in line with its five-year capital plan?

Blaze: The finance director can only advise and suggest courses of action on the CIP.  Council appropriates the funding, not the finance director, and the mayor/administration implements what capital gets purchased and what infrastructure projects get completed.

I will continue to advise and counsel, but council provides, through appropriations, and the mayor has, the spending authority, not the finance director. 

Zamborsky: The city has already abandoned its 5-year plan based on utilizing money from budgeted capital projects to pay down debt. This is the current administration’s way of making residents believe that things are better than they really are.

With flat revenues, increased costs, and a union contract negotiation upcoming in 2024, there is zero chance of meeting previously committed goals without doing some, or all, of the following:

• Streamlining operations

• Reducing/eliminating frivolous city expenditures

• Increasing the income tax, which is an option that I firmly reject.

• Borrowing more money ∞

Name: Vern Blaze
Age: 61
Occupation: Finance
Director, city
of Independence

Na m e : C h r i s
Age: 63
Occupation: Financial
Systems Project
Management Consultant