Finance department beats schedule by 12 months

By Lesley Jenkins
Star Staff

The Financial Management Act of 1981 was adopted by the Carter County Commission in September 2002, and requirements of the act state that the plan must be implemented by August 1, 2004. However, Director of Finance Jason Cody and JoAnn Blanckenship have been working hard so that local government can begin functioning under the 1981 act by August 2003.
The Financial Management Committee, of which Blankenship is chair, held a meeting on Thursday to discuss progress in implementing the act. Job descriptions of the finance department were presented by Cody.
Jerome Kitchens is in the process of transferring his office to the courthouse to accept the job of Deputy Finance Director. According to Cody, he will be his "right hand man."
The committee reviewed the job description and requirements of the Deputy Finance Director and passed the item with no opposition. However, one significant item was added to the description before it was passed.
"I think we need to reference this '81 act somewhere in his (Kitchen's) job description, for the simple reason it says, 'in the absence of the director, the deputy director shall perform the duties of the director necessary to the continued operation of the department, including, but not limited to, the cosigning of warrants, payroll checks and purchase orders,'" Blankenship stated.
Creating a centralized storage room was a favorable idea for the committee. Cody suggested the idea in order to prevent overstocking of an item in two or three different locations. Instead, items will be ordered and kept in a location convenient to the office.
"You can actually forget you have this little closet over the election office. You could put four or five boxes of paper (in there) and you can forget about it, and then order some more if you didn't have it centralized," said County Mayor, Dale Fair.
The committee also decided that the use of two computer systems in county offices is unnecessary, and Cody said that choosing only one system would yield less confusion. The committee chose Bridge Computer Systems because more employees have experience working with it, and the risk of data lost in conversion is minimal.
Payroll, accounting, and general ledgers data transferred with no loss of data. Bridge Cmputer Systems is providing an employee for one week to assist with training.
The committee also recommended performing a salary study among county employees. Greene County conducted a recent salary study due to a concern with consistency between salary competitiveness compared to other counties. Cody emphasized that, in order to compare salaries, the committee would need to consider the complete benefits package in the study.
"We do have an excellent benefit's package. I feel very strongly in saying we probably have got one of the best benefits packages of the neighboring counties. I feel pretty comfortable in saying that if you just compared salary to salary we are probably at the lower end," Cody said.
Fair answered a question from Commissioner Al Meehan about tax rates and presented some facts about neighboring counties that have not been able to provide pay raises to their employees. He praised the county because it was able give county employees a 1.5 percent pay raise in the proposed budget for the 2003-2004 fiscal year.
Another item on the agenda was the review of the Policy and Procedures Manual for the finance department. A Code of Ethics guideline in the manual was reviewed, and it was suggested that all county employees be required to sign a copy which will then be placed in their personal employment folder.
The committee will possibly meet again before the final implementation of the Financial Management Act of 1981. A public notice will be published in local newspapers as required by the act.