10:05am | The city of Long Beach has announced that a permanent director to oversee the Financial Management Department has been hired.
City Manager Pat West said Tuesday morning that John Gross, who is currently director of Finance for the city of Aurora, Colo., has been appointed to the position, which has been vacant since last December.
The new finance director will take the helm of his new post in Long Beach on July 11.
"Long Beach is an incredibly complex organization, and I am pleased to appoint Mr. Gross to head our city's Financial Management Department," West said in a statement. "John Gross is a finance professional with a proven track record of solid financial management. His expertise will be critical as the city continues to offer outstanding services with limited resources."
Gross has worked since 1990 for the city of Aurora, which has a population of 325,000. In Aurora, Gross oversees all aspects of that city's finances, including budgeting, accounting, debt management, business licensing, investment and cash management, and sales tax collection and auditing, according to information provided by the City Manager's Office.
He also has significant experience dealing with public pension systems. In Aurora, he sits on two pension boards — the Old Hire Police Pension Board and the Old Hire Fire Pension Board — and is the administrator for the Elected Officials and Executive Personnel Pension Plan, according to City Hall.
Pension reform in the city of Long Beach is a hot topic. The city's pension fund was as of January about $1.2 billion underfunded for its obligations. In February, the City Council took the first steps toward reform by approving several proposals that extended the age of retirement for several categories of city employees and increased the amount those employees contribute to the California Public Employees' Retirement System based on their respective payrolls. Regardless, the city's pension system remains unsustainable.
Among Gross' accomplishments thus far in his career include providing financial stability to a municipal parking authority that had cash-flow issues and could not meet payroll, turning it profitable in three short years. He has also helped lead the city of Aurora through a process to address that city's structural deficit, which is similar to the process adopted several years ago by the city of Long Beach. according to City Hall.
Prior to his current position in Aurora, Gross served as finance director of Arlington Heights, Illi., fiscal officer for the State of Illinois Bureau of Employment Security and interim deputy city manager for the city of Aurora. He also formerly served as a committee chair for the national Government Finance Officers Association.
Gross holds a master's degree in urban and public affairs and a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Carnegie-Mellon University.
"I'm pleased to be appointed to this challenging position," Gross said in a statement. "Long Beach is a dynamic city with incredible assets and a great team of professionals. I look forward to helping the mayor, City Council and city staff keep Long Beach financially strong and provide services effectively and efficiently."
Gross is replacing Lori Ann Farrell, who left the city in December 2010 after being hired to serve as the director of Financial Management for the city of Huntington Beach.