Matar’s Experience Key Asset in Her Role as Treasurer/CollectorFeb 25, 2021 06:00AM ● By Pamela Johnson
Municipal Spotlight by KEN HAMWEY, Contributing Writer
Sandra Matar has been on the job as Bellingham’s Treasurer/Collector for only 3-1/2 months, but her transition into that role has been smooth—very smooth.
That’s primarily because the 31-year-old Dedham native worked the last eight years as that town’s Assistant Treasurer/Collector, and her master’s degree in public administration from UMass-Boston is no doubt another plus. But, if experience is the key to success for a town’s Treasurer/Collector, then Matar will likely have a long, enjoyable career in her new position.Matar is acutely aware of her department’s function and how it relates to other municipal areas. Her office plays an integral role with the offices of Mary MacKinnon, the town’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO), and the Assessors.
“We reconcile our bank functions with the CFO’s accounting functions,” Matar noted. “After our cash-handling process, funds go into our accounting system for Mary’s office to analyze. We serve as a check and balance to each other. The Assessors’ office prepares billing data for us, then officially commits tax bills to us for collection.”
A graduate of Dedham High, Matar, who is a Certified Massachusetts Municipal Collector, earned her undergraduate degree from Emmanuel College, where she majored in political science and management. Her background is impressive, but it’s the attributes she possesses that make her a good fit for her new role.
“I’m objective, especially when dealing with taxpayers,” she said. “I consider myself passionate in my responsibilities, I pay attention to detail, and I rely on people skills and will always have an open-door policy and be approachable.”
Her approach to taxpayers is definitely people-friendly. “To be fair to all taxpayers, the law is the same for everyone in terms of property taxes, according to Mass. General Laws,” Matar emphasized. “I’m pleased to work with taxpayers to offer them possible solutions to their financial issues.”
Matar, who’s married and lives in Lincoln, RI, is a firm believer that success in her role is also linked to temperament. “It’s very important to be patient and maintain an even temperament,” she said. “Patience is needed because of the constant deadlines we face, like payroll disbursement.”
Matar knows that change is inevitable, and her office has definitely altered some things since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived. “We mail out receipts when bills are left in the Municipal Center’s drop-off box,” she said. “We also schedule appointments for anyone who has a specific need to meet with us (as when the Municipal Center was closed to the public).”
With an uptick in online bill payments, Matar views changes in that area as a benefit. “We can improve our way of providing tax bill information online,” she said. “I would like to see more online payments because it’s a convenient way of paying bills during the pandemic. I also would like to find better ways to invest the town’s money.”
Matar is a firm proponent of improving her department, and she sees technology and training going hand-in-hand to achieve that result. “Technology has given us a new dimension in assisting the public,” she said, “and cross-training is very important. That enables everyone in the office to be able to assist the public in whatever ways are needed.”
The Treasurer/Collector’s office includes three full-time employees and one part-time. Susan Silva is a full-time Treasurer/Collector clerk, and Elena Dasaro handles that function part-time. Lindsay Gentile is an Assistant Treasurer/Collector, and Michelle Nowlan is an Assistant Treasurer/Collector who functions as the town’s Payroll Manager.
Matar, who enjoys hiking, yoga and cooking, has found her new environment extremely pleasant—both at the Municipal Center and out and about in town.
“The town seems like an active, thriving community,” she noted. “It appears to have a good balance of residential and business districts. I love working with people, whether it’s co-workers, taxpayers, bankers or vendors. At the Municipal Center, I appreciate the collaborative efforts that I see. There’s good team chemistry, with people tackling a variety of projects in a positive way.”
Interviewed and hired by Town Administrator Denis Fraine and MacKinnon, Matar will, hopefully, end the turnover that’s hovered over the Treasurer/Collector position. She’s the third person to tackle the job in the last two years.
“Sandra has been a great addition to our municipal finance team because she has the skills and experience to contribute in many ways to a successful operation,” Fraine said. “The Treasurer/Collector’s position has seen a fair amount of turnover during the last few years, and I’m confident that Sandra will stabilize this very important post for the town once again.”