Rock Hill knew it had a good accountant in Anne Harty, the city’s chief financial officer, but now they know just how good.
Earlier this month, Harty – a graduate of Northwestern High School and then-Winthrop College with 10 years of service in Rock Hill’s finance department and 24 years in total in local government – received the Outstanding CPA in Local Government Impact Award from the American Institutes of CPAs, a national honor recognizing the top performers out of some 12,000 certified public accountants working in local government all across the country.
Harty received the award at the AICPA’s national conference in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 10. She was recognized by the Rock Hill City Council at its Monday night meeting, the first since the award was publicly announced.
It was a huge honor for the CFO and the city, but not a surprise to anyone who knows Harty, City Manager David Vehaun said.
“We thought, ‘Of course. Who else would get it?’” Vehaun said.
That surety wasn’t necessarily shared by Harty.
“The AICPA is huge, so it’s still kind of hard to believe I won it,” Harty said this week.
Harty was nominated for the award by Charles Alvis, an accounting professor at Winthrop University who served together with the S.C. Association of CPAs.
“I’ve known her all her career, and she’s been a real leader and fast-tracker in the CPA field from the beginning,” Alvis said. “I was looking at the qualifications for the award, and I thought, ‘She’s a strong contender.’”
The award recognizes Harty’s contributions to the city and the taxpayers’ wallets. Between 2011 and 2014, she successfully refinanced nine separate installments of pre-recession city debt at a lower interest rate, saving residents a total of more than $6 million.
One lowered rate affected the bond for the special Riverwalk tax district, which Rock Hill now pays $100,000 less on per year. The price tag on other projects were also trimmed down.
“We just re-bid them completely,” Harty said, “just like you could re-finance your home with a different lender.”
She also was able to use new market tax credits to get companies to buy $1.2 million of the $5 million bond on the Giordana Velodrome, which the buyers could then deduct from their owed income tax. The swap was literally a textbook case of using the tax law.
“Every year, a Clemson professor asks me to do a web class with his students on new market tax credits,” Harty said.
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin Advanced Government Finance Institute and a period in private practice, Harty – then Anne Bunton – was hired as York County’s treasurer in 1991 at the age of 27, beating out an older woman with more experience but without CPA qualifications.
“She was the first female treasurer York County’s had,” Alvis said. “Because of the doors she opened, that allowed other young people to follow in her footsteps.”
She held that job until 2005, when she came to work for the city as Rock Hill’s customer service manager. She was promoted to CFO in 2010.
“Rock Hill takes pride in distinguishing itself not just on a state or regional level, but on a national level. We have a lot of examples of that here,” Vehaun said. “We’re pickled that we can add to that someone as bright and energetic as Anne.”
But when asked herself, Harty spreads the credit around.
“We have a great staff at the finance department, a lot of people came together on this,” she said. “We (also) work well across departments, like with PRT (Parks, Recreation and Tourism) on the Velodrome.
“We really work well together, and that’s a big part of it.”