For more than 160 years, starting with the sale of the first lot in 1802 and the Town of Salem Charter in 1806 the financial responsibilities of the town resided in the elected office of Treasurer and the appointed office of Town Manager. During these years they collected taxes, fees and as the Town developed a capability to provide electric and water services they collected utility charges.
The growth of the town from a population of several hundred in 1806 to 3,400 in 1900 and 24,700 in 2000 spurred the demand for services which led to employment growth for the town. On January 1, 1968 the Town of Salem became the City of Salem and a new modern era was born. As a city of the first class Salem was required to provide a level of services which it was unaccustomed to, which in turn demanded a new level of professionalism from the departments of city government.
In 1964 George Ferrell was hired as an Accountant working for the Town Manager. By the end of 1967, Mr. Ferrell had become Chief Accountant, Frank Turk was hired as an Accountant and a separate Accounting Department was established. Salem became a city and the duties of the department expanded to include accounts payable and payroll. In 1974, Frank Turk became Chief Accountant and the department added responsibilities in the area of financial reporting, budgeting and fringe benefits. In 1979 the Finance Department was created, as an arm of City Council and Frank Turk became the City's first Finance Director.
Responsibility for meter reading, utility billing and utility collections was added to the functions of the Finance Department. Also in 1979, the Finance Department moved from College Avenue to the remodeled offices in the old Broad Street School and added the Data Processing (MIS – Management Information Systems) area to its list of responsibilities. In 1980 the Purchasing function was also added.
In 1983, the city took over the Civic Center and established a brand new School Division. Once again a variety of new responsibilities came the Finance Department's way as a result of expanded services. In 1992 during an administrative re-organization, the Finance Department, along with the Real Estate Office came under the direction of the City Manager's Office. Down through the years the complexity of issues in all Finance Department areas has grown dramatically due to changes in federal and state regulations, accounting standards along with changes in technology. In 2000, the MIS function was spun off as a separate department, Technology Systems.
The Finance Department, as it is currently organized, encompasses the following functions: Financial Management, Budgeting, Accounting, Payroll, Utility Billing and Collections, and Purchasing. These functions are performed not only for the General City Government and Utilities, but also the Salem School Division. In addition, the Finance Department serves as fiscal agent for Court-Community Corrections Program and the Cardinal Criminal Justice Academy. During fiscal year 2012-2013, the Finance Department is administering an operating budget in excess of $150,203,666.
Some of the major activities within the Finance Department are: Accounting and Financial Reporting for all the various City funds including Federal and State Grants and Debt Administration for the payment of principal and interest both long-and short-term obligations; coordination and preparation of payroll and related areas including the required reporting; internal auditing as needed prior to the Annual Audit by Certified Public Accountants and budget preparation and administration including necessary management reports for City Council and the City Manager.
The Purchasing Department consists of a Purchasing Supervisor and Buyer working under the direction of the Director of Finance. The primary objective of this department is to provide for fair and equitable treatment of all persons involved in public funds in procurement and to provide safeguards for maintaining a procurement system of quality and integrity.
The Utility Billing and Collections Departments consist of two supervisors and nine employees of which five are full-time meter readers. Both departments are located in City Hall. The Utility Billing and Collections Departments are responsible for the day-to-day meter reading, record keeping, data processing, billing and collection of electric, water and sewer bills each month.