Centralized financing discussed

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Courier Editor

Cash-strapped Cannon County Commission was asked at its recent meeting to consider hiring a finance director and adopting a centralized budget.

"We need to have a conversation about this," Commissioner Glenn Steakley said. "There may be enough signatures to put this on a referendum."

Such a referendum would propose placing Cannon County under Tennessee's County Financial Managment System of 1981. This system must be approved by a two-thirds vote of the county legislative body or a majority of the voters in order to be effective in any county.

Steakley said placing the issue on a public referendum could cost $20,000.

"That's why we as commissioners should reach out and find out," he said. "I urge each of you to find out yourself and let's make a knowledge-based decision."

Twenty-two out of Tennessee's 95 counties are under a centralized budget.

However, Commissioner Ritchie Hunter expressed his concerns about centralized budgeting at the current time.

"We may be so strapped that we can't even do this," Hunter said.

"We're doing everything we can," the commissioner said. Services in several departments have been sacrificed "so we can have a balanced budget."

Citizen Paul Alexander didn't agree.

"Why should we trust you?" Alexander asked. "We have wasted so much money in this county. The problem is you haven't done your job."

Called the '81 Act, the measure allows county government to streamline its financial functions in one office.

Under the '81 Act , a finance department is created by a county financial management committee consisting of the county mayor, supervisor of highways, director of schools and four members elected by the county legislative body. These latter four members need not be members of the county legislative body, but canbe. This committee establishes policies, procedures, and regulations to implement a sound, efficient county financial system.

More importantly, the county financial management committee appoints a director of finance.

Minimum requirements for this position include a bachelor of science degree with at least 18 quarter hours in accounting or with two years of acceptable experience in a related position. The finance committee establishes his/her pay subject to approval by the County Commission.

The director of finances oversees the operation of the department of finance and installs and maintains a purchasing, payroll, budgeting, accounting and cash management system for the county.

The director must have a blanket bond of at least $100,000 for the faithful performance of the director's duties as well as the department's employees.

The department of finance, under the supervision of the director and subject to the policies and regulations of the county financial management committee, is responsible for budgeting, accounting, payroll, purchasing and should be on the lookout for conflict of interest and improper gifts.

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