Citizens for Better Government
Blount County Tennessee
Over-Budget-Report Stirs Controversy
At the Commission meeting on 10/19, Citizens for Better Government presented an Over Budget Report showing that the County could be as much as $1.4 million over budget year to date.
We decided to produce this report because it is a basic financial control tool and the County did not have one. The financial report the Commissioners receive is a "dump" from the County computer that covers nearly 1500 (yes hundred!) pages. We tried very hard to generate a fair and accurate report that would give a summary of the County's financial position in a couple of pages.. We showed the Mayor and Mr. Bennett an advance copy of our report on Monday, 10/16. (This was the third meeting we had with them to discuss ways to improve the County financial reporting and control system) They seemed to show interest and concern. The Mayor pointed out that some Commissioners had been asking for an easy to read summary report like ours. He thanked us for our efforts. We discussed potential inaccuracies that could arise from long term forward encumbrances and told him about the ones we had already identified and excluded from the report. We asked whether he had any objections to us presenting the report to the Commission. He said he did not. The following day, in a phone conversation, the Mayor mentioned that the OGA account had encumbered a full year's insurance costs. We removed that item from our report. On Thursday, we presented the revised report to the Commission.
Early this week, I again called Mr. Bennett to ask him if he had identified any other large forward encumbrances. He said he had not. He went on to say that he was working on a computer generated version of the Over Budget Report.
On Wednesday 10/25, I was interviewed by the Daily Times about the report. Thursday, I opened the paper and found the Mayor saying: "Folts is wrong when he says the county is over budget".
Next, I opened Blount Today and was gratified to find that Mr Bennett said: "Folts figures were accurate".
All this confusion makes our point. The County's financial reports are simply not adequate to give any of us, including the Mayor and the Budget Director, an accurate picture of the financial status of the County.
We really do need to find a way to make the needed improvements, quickly.
I also read the Mayor's Daily Times comment that we are "dead wrong" on County policies. If we are dead wrong, where are the policies on nepotism, procurement cards, county vehicles, tuition reimbursement, etc.?
In addition, I think the article implied a complete rejection of our offer of volunteer experts to help. The offer was made in the hope that combining volunteers with our County professionals would speed the solutions to our County financial reporting and control problems.
We were simply trying to help. We are saddened by the course the Mayor has taken. The citizens of this County deserve better.