Unicoi commission hears options on financial systems

Brad Hicks • Dec 31, 2013 at 10:32 AM

ERWIN -— The Unicoi County Commission did not hold a regular meeting in December, but members of the commission did gather for a Monday work session to get information on a pair of options to centralize the county’s finances.

Rick Hall with the County Technical Advisory service attended to discuss two local-option laws — the County Financial Management System of 1981 and the Fiscal Control Acts of 1957. The county’s finances currently fall under general law.

In its audit of the county’s 2012-13 fiscal year, the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury recommended the county look to establish not only an audit committee, but also a central system of accounting, budgeting and purchasing. Commission Vice Chairman Dwight Bennett said the adoption of one of the acts would help the county’s departments get on the same financial page.

“Where I’m in favor of one of these is how, with the county, the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing on so many issues,” Bennett said. “That’s where I have a problem since I’ve been on the commission — there’s so many issues we that run into, you don’t know where to go to get the information in a timely manner. If you do get it, it still doesn’t get out to everybody.”

Hall said both the County Financial Management System of 1981 and the Fiscal Control Acts of 1957 would provide a uniform financial management to the county, establish uniform purchasing and financial policies for all county departments, enhance resource utilization and improve the dissemination of financial information to county officials.

The CFMS of 1981 would centralize the finances and purchasing for the county’s departments, including the school system, Hall said. He said the act, which could be adopted by either a two-thirds vote by the commission or the majority vote in a countywide referendum, would consolidate the county’s financial functions into a department of finances.

The county’s finance department would handle all purchasing, accounting, budgeting, payroll, cash management and other fiscal matters for the county, Hall said. A Finance Management Committee made up of seven members would be established, with this panel being made up of the county mayor, the highway department superintendent, the director of schools and four members who may or may not be county commissioners. This committee’s primary duty would be to establish and approve financial policies and procedures for the county.

A director of finance would also be brought onboard through the CFMS of 1981, Hall said. This person would be appointed by the finance committee and would oversee the new finance department and install and maintain a countywide system of purchasing, accounting, payroll, budgeting and cash management.

The director of finance would also provide county officials with monthly reports showing the conditions of the budget. The establishment of a purchasing department is optional under the CFMS of 1981, and a little more than 20 counties across the state have adopted the act, Hall said.

Hall said the Fiscal Control Acts of 1957 is made up of three separate acts, one for budgeting, one for accounting and one for purchasing, which may individually or all be adopted by the same means as the CFMS of 1981. The county mayor’s office and the highway department would automatically fall under the The Fiscal Control Acts of 1957 but the school system would not, Hall said. The school system could become part of the system only if the state commission of education approves the transfer, Hall said.

No action was taken on the financial acts at Monday’s work session.

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