County Delays Forming Centralized Financial System

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The Cannon County Commission spent considerable time discussing a number of issues during its monthly meeting Tuesday (March 13) at the Cannon County Courthouse.

Following are some of the highlights from the meeting:

• The Commissioners decided to table a resolution to form a committee to draft a Private Act to create a centralized system of accounting, budgeting and purchasing of all funds held by the county trustee, exclusive of the trustee’s fee account.

The decision on whether to form the committee to pursue the Private Act through the Tennessee General Assembly was put off until the Commissioners receive the first report from the recently-formed County Audit Committee.

Commissioner Kevin George made a motion to approve the Resolution, citing the recommendation of state auditors over the last several years that the County create a centralized financial system. The motion died for lack of a second.

Commissioner Mark Barker expressed concern about the cost associated with establishing such a system, which he stated would be around $100,000 annually. Barker said he had spoken Tuesday with the state auditor who performs the County’s annual audit and was told by her that “they have to put it in there (forming a centralized system).” However, Barker added that “they never do say it will save us money.”

When asked, Doug Bodary, the County’s advisor from CTAS (County Technical Assistance Service), stated that a centralized system had saved Bedford County several million dollars, which prompted Commissioner George to state, “I can’t imagine we wouldn’t do that.”

Glenn Steakley, chairman of the Audit Committee, stated the Committee is in the process of reviewing the findings of the recently released 2010-2011 County Audit. He said after the Committee has completed its work and consults with the state auditor, they will make a report to the Commission.

A little less than half (41) of Tennessee’s 95 counties do not have a centralized financial system.

• After first taking no action on Commission Chairman Bob Stoetzel’s request to have the County pursue a bond rating utilizing Bodary’s services through CTAS, the Commission approved a motion to do so made by Commissioner Jim Bush and seconded by Commissioner George by a 10-0 vote. It is the belief of Bodary and some members of the commission that a good bond rating will save the county $10,000 annually in the cost of bond insurance.

• The decision to pursue the bond rating brought about the reversal of a decision on another matter the Commission had rejected earlier in the meeting. By a 2-7-1 vote, Commissioners had nixed a motion to assume the Cannon Courier’s lease of its office space in the Regions Bank building on West Water St. across from the courthouse. 

Local resident Corey Davenport asked Commissioner Kevin Mooneyham if he would reconsider his opposition to assuming the lease. Commissioner Mooneyham said he would, adding that his opposition stemmed from the fact the commission had taken no action on potentially saving money on the bond rating insurance, but were wanting to spend money to lease the Region Bank office space.

Commissioner Mooneyham made a motion to lease the building, Commissioner Russell Reed seconded the motion, and it passed 7-2-1. The space will initially be used to store county records. Most commissioners agreed there is a need for additional storage space for the county because the courthouse is running out of room. At some point in the future some county offices now located in the courthouse may be moved across the street to the building.

• Commissioners spent nearly an hour discussing purchasing fire trucks. The main point of contention was at which local fire station the trucks would be located. By a 10-0 vote, they passed a motion made by Commissioner Bush to purchase two used trucks, for an amount of approximately $130,000, obtaining a three-year note, and paying for them out of Debt Service. One of the trucks will be located at Gassaway and the other at West Side.

See next week’s Cannon Courier for additional coverage of Tuesday’s meeting.

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Members Opinions:
March 14, 2012 at 7:30am
I find myself torn between the views of Commissioner George and Commissioner Barker on the subject of the county having some form of centralized system for purchasing, accounting and budgeting. My gut feeling is it would be beneficial to the county in terms of saving money and tracking purchases, but I am not certain those savings would not be eaten up by the cost. Maybe it would be worth doing it even if it were a wash. I think a study is in order.
March 14, 2012 at 12:52pm
I agree with you Kevin, more information is needed.
March 14, 2012 at 7:27pm
Well, I agree more study needs to be made and they did the right thing by waiting for the Budget Committee to brink back their reccommendations before they passed anything.

I do think the Private Act is the best option if they choose to go the route of a centralized system instead of the 1981 act because too many people have to be on the committee to hire and fire and it could get very political under the 1981 act.

Too many people have the option to opt out of the program as well under the 1981 act.

Even if it is a wash and the money savings is eat up in administration costs then at least we know where the money is, we know who spent it, we know what it was spent on and the tracking is 100% better than what we have now. And we don't to have it show up on audits year after year.

I look forward to more information as it becomes available!
March 14, 2012 at 7:28pm
Thought the sentiment expressed on this subject earlier by viewers indicated there would be "no" cost to the county for creating such a department. I did not read where utilizing existing personnel was discussed at this meeting. My estimate on cost was not so off the wall after-all.
March 15, 2012 at 5:10am
"I did not read where utilizing existing personnel was discussed at this meeting."

Well, I was only offering the highlights of the meeting. Director of Schools Barbara Parker did touch on the subject while she was speaking during the discussion of the idea.

The accuracy of the $100,000 estimate is one of those things which needs to be determined. Another is whether a centralized system involves adding another layer to that which is already in place. Also whether it is imperative that the county executive, sheriff, highway department and school offices all need one or more bookkeeper in place even if there is a centralized system.
March 15, 2012 at 5:35am
Kevin, thanks for the clarification. There seems to be a great deal to consider before moving forward with such an idea. The State rarely considers the costs to taxpayers when offering recommendations and even more rarely offers financial support enabling activation of such recommendations. The study should continue by those whose findings are not subjectively biased either way.
March 15, 2012 at 7:30am
Then if one is done, it will have to be conducted by an outside consulting firm. Every office holder, every government employee, every local business which seeks to do business with local government brings some form of bias to the table.

For example, I am not sure if the outcome would have been different, but the fact that the Middle School Study Committee was comprised entirely of people involved in the local school system in some form or fashion makes me wonder if the outcome would have been different had it been conducted by folks whose jobs and positions were not directly impacted.
March 15, 2012 at 8:57am
I think more study is definitely needed, but I still lean very strongly to the idea that this is a need more than a want.

As it stands now, there is no consistency in how our tax dollars are spent, tracked or audited.

There are multiple people who have control over authorizing money spent, multiple people used for book keeping purposes, multiple people who consult on what to do and when to do it.

I think that has had and will continue to have the ability to allow money to be misused and not allow for the transparency we should have when it comes to tax payer dollars being spent.

There really is no consistency when it comes to the way our money is handled and that promotes the idea of waste and even suspicion.

As I have said before, there is no way anyone would control their own personal money in this type of manner.

Why would we allow it for taxpayer monies?
March 15, 2012 at 10:22am
Most likely (as was mentioned at the meeting) is to use the same bookkeepers but they will not be on-site where their offices are they will transfer to the central finance office. The initial cost will be when a manager is hired, and then the hardware. The other bookkkeepers will do their thing but it will be overseen by the financial officer.No one will lose their job. This is the way that I foresee it, but I am only one of the ten who will vote on these matters.
I am having the cost saving and the estimated operational cost sent to me and Mike's office. Mike should have already gotten one from Steve Walker.
Bob Stoetzel
March 15, 2012 at 1:48pm
I should have already given him a little love, but let me say thanks to Kevin Mooneyham for reconsidering the idea of getting more space for the courthouse by leasing the Courier's office.

Thanks to the other 6 who voted for it as well.

I don't think many people realize the effect on the amount of space the records that must be stored by law in a building built in 1934 has.

It was a good move and a necessary move that needed to be done in my opinion.
March 15, 2012 at 10:08pm
Acquiring additional space, and space this near the courthouse was a fantastic decision by the county commission. All commissioners voting for this option are to be commended. Growth must be managed internally and certainly before the State comes in and tells us not only that we must change but also, how such changes must be made. Our county commission took one giant step forward with regard to pursuing additional space. Space that is direly needed already. Well done!
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