Budget officer promoted to Fort Worth's CFO position

Posted Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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This article has been modified from how it originally appeared int he Star-Telegram and on Star-Telegram.com to correct the timing of when Horatio Porter learned of the job opening.

FORT WORTH -- City budget officer Horatio Porter was promoted to chief financial officer Tuesday as officials also moved to combine the budget and financial services units into one 100-person department.

The financial management services department will manage the budget, capital projects, the treasury, risk management, accounting and financial systems, and the payroll.

Porter, 43, who took over as budget officer in February 2009 after 15 years of working in private industry for firms such as AmeriCredit and FedEx, has won praise from City Council members for steering several tight budgets and building a five-year financial forecast.

"It's an excellent change, and I think it'll be beneficial to all of us," Mayor Betsy Price said during Tuesday's council meeting.

Lena Ellis, who had been chief financial officer, is no longer with the city, officials said, declining to elaborate.

Porter, who had reported to City Manager Tom Higgins, now reports to Assistant City Manager Susan Alanis, who oversaw the old financial management services unit.

Alanis said combining the units makes sense.

"That's the way the CFO operates with most other organizations," she said. "It's all under one umbrella."

The promotion caps a tough few weeks; Porter's mother, who was suffering from a lung disease, died Saturday, Jan. 19. Then, he said, he became aware of the job opening on Thursday.

"My mom would be proud," said Porter, who graduated from Polytechnic High School. "My only regret is she isn't here to see this."

Porter, a Fort Worth native and TCU graduate, has a bachelor's degree in accounting and an MBA in finance and is a certified public accountant. He was assistant vice president for planning and analysis at AmeriCredit when recruited to join the city, his entry into public service.

"I had done as much as I wanted to professionally in the private sector," Porter said. "I had an opportunity to help shape a landscape in my hometown."

Porter walked into a $59 million shortfall in planning for the 2010 budget. The city ended up closing libraries and pools and laying off employees. The next budget had a $73 million shortfall, and the last two, $40 million apiece.

Challenges ahead

The 2014 budget won't be any easier. Staff members have started discussing it and expect a $40 million to $50 million shortfall. The city balanced this year's $583 million budget on one-time savings and unexpected revenue gains. Those won't be there this time, Porter said.

Residents will have to weigh in to help the city make difficult choices, he said.

"We do 100 different things for the residents of Fort Worth," Porter said. "And the reality is, we can only afford to do about 80 things."

On the upside, the city is in much better position than during the recession. Sales tax receipts are strong, and the preliminary tax roll report in May could help close the budget gap.

Still, Porter, said, "our revenues are relatively fixed."

Porter, who had a staff of 15 as budget officer and will receive a pay raise to $140,000 annually from $123,552, says one of his key goals is to have a "high-performing" and "tax-efficient" city.

Officials declined to discuss the reasons for Ellis' departure, citing confidential personnel matters.

Alanis said only that "there was a personnel decision in that department," creating a management void, and "we responded to it."

The confirmation of Ellis' departure came after a holiday snafu in which a city payroll wasn't processed on time, causing some employees to have to wait a weekend to access their funds. The city has since announced several changes in the payroll process.

Ellis, reached last week, declined to comment directly on her situation or to discuss her employment status, saying, "I hope we can work things out."

Scott Nishimura, 817-390-7808

Twitter: @JScottNishimura

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