AUBURN | Lauren Poehlman shuffled some of the stacks of papers on her newly occupied desk in the first floor comptroller’s office on one corner of City Hall.

“I’ve got papers everywhere,” she said apologetically. “I’m still trying to get settled in.”

Poehlman was hired at the beginning of the month as city comptroller, ending a nine-month vacancy of the position.

After nearly a year of stretching to cover the responsibilities of the top financial position, she said city employees keep stopping by to tell her how welcome it is to have someone back behind the desk.

“The staff here has been great,” she said. “They’ve been a big help keeping me caught up with all the tasks that need to be done.”

Poehlman comes to Auburn from the Vestal Central School District, where she served as the assistant superintendent for finance, operations and personnel.

Since 2000 she has held similar positions in education administration in the Utica and Geneva city school districts.

Prior to her work in education, she was self-employed for 20 years as a certified public accountant dealing in small business tax brackets.

Poehlman, who has lived in central New York nearly all her life, said she pursued the position in Auburn in order to live closer to her 95-year-old father, who resides in Camillus.

“I’ve decided that this has to be a priority now, living closer to home,” she said.

Poehlman’s sister also lives in the Jordan-Elbridge area, and one of her three daughters currently attends the Rochester Institute of Technology.

The other two daughters, all of whom are in their twenties, live in Colorado and Pennsylvania.

Poehlman’s home is currently up for sale, and she expects to be able to move to the city to meet the residency requirements for the position once she finds a buyer.

Making the switch from education to municipal administration is a different environment, but her accounting experience should transfer smoothly.

“I’ll have a learning curve with public utilities, sewage treatments and the capital projects are a little different, but the accounting practices are very similar,” she said. “You still have a commitment to the community and your responsibility is always to the taxpayer and managing the funds in the most efficient way.”

Poehlman comes to Auburn in the midst of a struggle with the state-imposed tax levy cap and a multi-million dollar deficit in the city’s budget.

“We have a new budget now and there is some restructuring that we need to look at and some redistribution of positions that the city manager is looking at, so I’m trying to get my arms around that as soon as possible,” she said, listing her immediate priorities.

With rising costs brought on by personnel benefits and limitations caused by the tax cap legislation, Poehlman said the next few budget cycles won’t be easy and will most likely call for more cuts.

“When you have costs are rising greater than the capacity to raise revenues, you’re going to continue to have gaps in the budget,” she said. “Unless you can control costs some other way, you have to use your reserves, generate more revenues from other services or cut services.”

Staff writer Nathan Baker can be reached at 282-2238 or nathan.baker@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @CitizenBaker.

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