ALBANY — In the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court case Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, the role of our union’s treasurers is more important than ever.

That’s why we are making it a priority to ensure that treasurers on all levels of our union are well trained for their position.

CSEA Statewide Treasurer Bill Walsh and union staff have recently been leading treasurer trainings at several locations in every region. In addition to helping hundreds of our union’s treasurers master — and refresh — their skills, the course emphasizes our treasurers’ responsibility in ensuring our dues money is used responsibly.

“The purpose and responsibility of our treasurers is to ensure that our union’s financial documents are filed properly so that our members’ money is spent wisely,” Walsh said.

It’s a big job for our treasurers, who must know thoroughly our union’s Financial Standards Code, as well as the standards and practices of distributing our union’s money to units, correctly documenting and reporting our spending.

Our treasurers must also ensure that our dues money is being responsibly used on resources that help our union stay strong.

“When you look at someone who may be on the fence about becoming a member, they will want to know ‘what am I getting for my union dues?’” Walsh said. “It’s important for us to show our members that we are spending our money wisely and responsibly, because this filters back to our units and locals. Without the treasurer putting the proper financial justification together, none of this filters back.”

Hands-on approach
CSEA has long required that our treasurers complete the training.

Walsh, along with region treasurers and union staff, recently retooled the course to make it more interactive and relevant.

The training begins with anoverview of treasurer responsibilities, including reviewing our union’s Financial Standards Code.

Next, the treasurers are presented with managing a local or unit’s mock fiscal year, complete with a mock budget and required filings using financial documents. Walsh and union staff guide the trainees throughout the process.

“[The treasurers] all have to decide what their spending will be, the same as for their actual local or unit,” Walsh said. “They have to decide what their priorities and limits will be. There’s a lot of information to digest, but the hands-on training really helps a lot of treasurers.”

New and veteran treasurers noted the value of the course.

City of Rome Unit Treasurer Joan Miller, a senior tax collector who is serving her first unit treasurer term, recently attended the training. “The treasurer training really helped me gain a better understanding of the duties and responsibilities of being our union treasurer,” she said.

Miller noted that the training made her realize that some expenses her unit incurred from negotiations were reimbursable from her union local, adding that our union has strong practices in place to protect our funds. “We have good oversight,” she said. “There are a lot of checks and balances in place.”

The course helped Nassau County Board of Elections Unit Treasurer Michelle Imbroto better understand her responsibilities. “When I entered this position last year, I didn’t know what to do,” she said. “This class perfectly lays out the guidelines of what this position entails.”

Otsego County Local Treasurer Crystal Davidson recently refreshed her skills. “I think this [revised]training was a little more in-depth, allowing us to learn better how to fill out the forms and where to get the information,” she said. “We have a duty to protect the money that comes in from our members. CSEA makes sure we have the training and ability to ensure that we take care of it and spend it wisely.”

Technology advances
Even with numerous training locations, attending a class in person may still be challenging for many members who may live in remote areas or lack time to complete a traditional course.

To address this, Walsh, region treasurers and staff developed a training course via video conference that was broadcast to our region and satellite offices across the state. Walsh said he wants to expand our union’s use of online training.

“[Using video conferencing], we trained numerous people across the state in two days,” Walsh said. “It saves a lot of money on travel. Our treasurers are volunteers and many of them don’t have a lot of time, so we give them a basic understanding of what their responsibilities are. We let them know they are not alone.”

As our technology evolves, one thing about our treasurers’ responsibilities will never change.
“You have to always remember that everything we do [as union officers]is on behalf of our members,” Walsh said.

— Janice Gavin, Mark M. Kotzin, Wendi Bowie and Jessica Ladlee

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