For her work to bring the Anoka-Hennepin School District from the brink of a catastrophic deficit of $60 million or more to the position of having a projected general fund balance for fiscal year 2013 of $39.3 million, Michelle Vargas was named one of Finance & Commerce’s “Top Women in Finance for 2012.” Vargas is Anoka-Hennepin’s chief financial officer.
A graduate of Coon Rapids High School (CRHS), Vargas and the other winners will be honored at an event in Minneapolis Nov. 1 and featured in the Nov. 2 edition of Finance & Commerce, a newspaper focused on business in Minnesota.
Vargas accomplished the remarkable fiscal turnaround in a year despite the fact that state funding for education has not kept pace with cost increases for approximately eight years. In addition, the district ended the last fiscal year with a surplus of more than $11 million as the result of a number of small efficiencies she implemented.
Because of Vargas’s work, instead of the cuts in programs and services that have been all too common in the school district over the last 10 years, the School Board was able to approve investments in educational programs that will ultimately improve education and prepare students for life. Well respected by staff, Vargas is known for her energetic leadership and quick, analytical mind.
After graduating from CRHS, Vargas went to Anoka-Ramsey Community College and then transferred to the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, where she earned a degree in accounting. Vargas is also a certified public accountant.
In 1993, Vargas joined Anoka-Hennepin as a clerk working in accounts payable. From there she was promoted to be an accountant and then as the district’s controller, overseeing payroll and accounting. In 2007, Vargas left for the Elk River Area Schools where she worked as the manager of finances. In 2009, Vargas returned to Anoka-Hennepin in her current position of chief finance officer.
Not knowing she would spend her career in governmental accounting, Vargas has enjoyed her career with the Anoka-Hennepin School District.
“I like working in the community where I live and working with the people who are educating my children,” Vargas said. “Although I am not in front of students, it’s rewarding to know I am providing resources and support. It feels like important work.”
Vargas said she is honored to receive the award from Finance & Commerce and honored to represent the school district as its chief financial officer.