Committee cites transparency as it votes down proposal to allow line-item fund transfers

Published 3:43 pm Monday, May 2, 2022

A proposal to give the Finance Department the authority to move funds between line items in a department budget failed to pass on Monday.

The Carter County Financial Management Committee voted 4-1 against the policy change on Monday, with one abstention.

The proposed update would have given the Finance Department authority to move funds between line items in a department’s budget without adding funding to the budget.

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An example given was transferring funds from an office supply line to a gasoline line to make sure the department had funding in the correct line item if funds were short.

“When we do the budgets, these things change such as gasoline,” said Finance Director Carolyn Watson. “We are asking that a $1,500 limit be placed on what can go from one line item to another. And if we don’t have the funds available, then we will have to go to another process.”

Some of the commissioners on the committee voiced concerns about changing the policy, citing transparency concerns.

“It’s about the public’s perception of transparency,” said District 3 Commissioner Mark Tester.

“They need more accountability — not less,” said Commission Chairwoman Ginger Holdren. “If they (department heads) would do a better job of keeping things in place at the start of the budget process, they might not have these issues.”

Watson also told the committee that the 2022-2023 fiscal year budget is not yet balanced, but it could be submitted on time if some things fall into place and department heads respond promptly to requests to trim budgets.

“I have completed the budget for the jail and sheriff’s department which are two of the larger budgets in the county,” said Watson. “I sent out an email last week letting the office holder know that he can come back May 9 to address.

“If that happens and we can get the budget trimmed, then it’s possible we could get it submitted,” she said. “We are going to be short, there is no question. Departments would have 10 business days to respond if they are asked to trim the budget.”