County may hire a Financial Director

By Megan R. Harrell

Star Staff

County Commissioners sitting on the Special Investigations Committee began the process of hiring a Financial Director last night. Currently, the County Executive is responsible for all of the financial management in Carter County and many commissioners believe now is the time to establish a finance department.
   Members of the Special Investigations Committee received advice from Rick Hall with County Technical Assistance Services. Hall outlined the state's guidelines for establishing a finance department, and provided committee members with valuable information on the Fiscal Control Act of 1957 and the County Financial Management Act of 1981. The legislation was established to outline the requirements for a finance department at the county level.
   Carter County would adopt one of the acts as a guideline from which to build a new finance department. Hall told the committee that many of the counties adopting an act choose the 1981 Act. However, a majority of the counties surrounding Carter are under the 1957 Act. Washington, Sullivan, Johnson and Greene counties each have financial departments under the 1957 Act.
   Many counties establishing financial management systems are currently adopting the Act of 1981, because it involves more key leaders. Although the approval requirements are identical under both acts, the 1981 Act includes the County Superintendent of Schools and the County Road Supervisor.
   The purpose of the finance department under the 1981 Act is to administer the finances of the county for all funds of all departments, agencies and boards that are handled by the county trustee. The 1981 Act states that the finance department is responsible for purchasing, payroll, accounting, budgeting, cash management and other financial matters in the county.
   County Executive Truman Clark has visited other counties in Tennessee and has been able to get a good sense of how their finance departments work under the established acts. "People that have it seem to love it and the people that do not seem to be scared to death of it," Clark said.
   Members of the Special Investigations Committee decided to visit counties recommended by Hall to gather more information about hiring a financial director for Carter County. Hall cautioned committee members on the delicacy of the selection process. "It is key to hire a good financial director with good communication skills that works well with the commissioners and the public, and is a good technician," Hall said. "You do not really know what is going on in other departments in this county and you will not know unless you appoint a Financial Director."
   The committee decided to extend an invitation to the Superintendent of Schools and Roads Superintendent to be involved in researching which act is best suited for Carter County. Committee members will travel to the counties recommended by Hall and observe the workings of their financial departments. The visitations will allow the committee to ask questions about the implementation of and transitions involved with the establishment of the department.
   Carter County already has existing space for a Finance Department, therefore, it will not have to deal with a major expense that many counties face when establishing a similar department.