Shannon Whitfield

Walker County Commissioner Shannon Whitfield is tightening up on policies for budgeting and purchase orders.

"As you well know we are under a lot of financial stress and issues and have got a lot of things we have got to clean up," Whitfield said during his Oct. 5 commissioner's meeting.

Whitfield said he reached out to the Association of County Commissioners Georgia for help and assistance.

At first, matters did not look so bad, but after further study for three days, the ACCG returned, saying matters were much worse than previously thought.

"It's the worse we have seen" was the reply they gave, Whitfield said.

The ACCG will continue to work with the county to pull it out of "this financial mess," Whitfield said.

Whitfield said he had been working late into the evenings to get the new budget ready in a line-item fashion.

The ACCG said the county must adopt certain resolutions to provide transparency to county government finances.

"They said that putting these controls in will hold everyone accountable, including my staff and my office and also all of the other aspects of the county government," Whitfield said.

He said the ACCG was "very surprised" there were no group policies in place for budget control nor any formal policies for purchase orders.

Whitfield said the past administration had a $500 limit that was sometimes ignored by certain departments. Whitfield lowered it to $200.

Whitfield said a purchase order must be submitted to the governing authority for all check requests prior to the purchase in amounts over $200.

Greg McConnell, the county's chief financial officer, is authorized to approve purchase orders up to $5,000.

All purchase order requests from $5,000 to $15,000 must be approved by the sole commissioner. Purchase order requests exceeding $15,000 must be brought before the public by the commissioner at the next scheduled meeting.

The governing authority reserves the right to refuse payment for purchases that are inconsistent with this policy.

The summary line-item legal level control resolution insists any transfer of appropriations from personnel money, operational money, and capital improvement must be made by the commissioner or the county chief financial officer.

This requires each department and elected official to present a budget change request form in order for a request for the transferal of appropriations.

This gives the commissioner a means to control spending in each department and a means to bring transparency in county government.

Josh O'Bryant is a general assignment reporter and covers the Walker-Catoosa County area. He can be reached at the Walker County Messenger office at 706-638-1859 and by email at jobryant@npco.com.