Commissioner's office meets budget challenges for department, county
by Jessica Loeding
Oct 19, 2012 | 1470 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
* This is the final part in an ongoing series looking at the county’s budget by department.

Tasked with setting and adopting the budget, the Bartow County Commissioner’s Office must then see that each department operates according to plan.

The commissioner’s office is the chief administrative office for the county and is led by a sole commissioner, who, by law, is the governing authority, providing oversight and management of the county’s financial operations, administrative operations and oversight of all the departments and offices of the county, according to Chief Financial Officer Jo Taylor. The commissioner’s office does not oversee those offices of other elected officials, however.

Bartow County’s employment system, which includes payroll, employee benefits and administration of employment policies and guidelines, also falls under the commissioner’s office. Also, the department establishes and directs planning efforts in various policy areas, including transportation, recreation, public works, public safety and administrative services.

Under the current budget, the commissioner’s office operates on $877,800.

The largest portion of the budget, like most department’s, covers employee costs. With seven full-time positions, $565,000 is allotted for salaries, with more than $250,000 going to cover insurance, Social Security and retirement contributions for employees.

The commissioner’s office is led by the commissioner — outgoing commissioner Clarence Brown with newly elected Steve Taylor set to take office Jan. 1.

“Annette Cothran is the accounts payable/financial assistant and is responsible for processing hundreds of invoices each week, which come in from all departments and officials,” Jo Taylor said. “Prior to processing for payment, invoices are checked for approval by a county official or department head and for proper coding in the financial software system for each department or officials’ budget. Accounts payable invoices are generated to purchase the needed materials, supplies and equipment for the county’s various operations.”

As Chief Financial Officer, Taylor oversees the daily financial operations, which includes all funds and general ledgers of the county, balancing accounts, financial reporting requirements, internal security controls, financial planning, budget preparation and budget oversight.

County clerk Kathy Gill is responsible for the preparation of the agendas and related documents for all public meetings, taking and recording of the minutes of those meetings, overseeing the county’s records retention and open records programs, and attesting all official documents.

Debbie Andersen, administrative assistant, serves as the primary receptionist and is the primary point of contact for persons seeking assistance or services from the various county departments, either by phone or in person. In addition, she receives and receipts in the revenues received in the office, assists with asset management and types and prepares a variety of county documents.

County Administrator Steve Bradley ensures that all county policies and procedures, state and federal laws, rules and regulations are followed; provides oversight of the county finance and employment system; leads the county planning efforts; oversees a number of county programs; advises and counsels department heads; trains county employees and officials on various policies, rules and regulations; advocates for and represents the county at various meetings and functions with other local government, state and federal agencies; and serves as a primary contact for the media.

Lane McMillan serves with Bradley as assistant county administrator. Along with oversight of human resources and advising and counseling department heads, she also manages the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax financial program and asset management, which involves the tracking of the county’s real and personal property.

Brown serves as the chief representative of the county, both locally and at the state and national levels.

“He sets the policy of county government and provides directions and oversight in all areas of county government, but especially in the area of economic development. He serves as the final hearing official in many areas such as zoning and employment hearings,” Jo Taylor said. “He sets and adopts the county’s annual budget, and he directly meets with many citizens, groups, businesses and organizations on various issues, providing a final determination of many questions or requests that come to him by members of the public.”

Second to employee costs, the commissioner’s office spends the most on office equipment, office supplies and travel, in that order.

“The largest line items, other than salaries and benefits, are the repairs and maintenance of office equipment, office supplies and travel,” Taylor said. “Repairs and Maintenance consists of maintenance contracts on various office equipment and software programs used to run the office. Supplies and other lines are set based on the history of use and annual cost of running the office. Training and education has been limited during the recession but our office, as well as others, must keep up with the changes in the laws, rules and regulations that pertain to county government.”

Office equipment is listed at $16,000, office supplies at $7,000 and travel at $6,000.

Other line items in the commissioner’s office budget include: $3,000 for printing and binding; $1,500 for dues and fees; $2,000 for gas and diesel; $5,000 for education and training; and $1,000 for advertising.

Taylor said that because the commissioner and his staff are responsible for managing the county’s finances, the economic downturn brought a new set of challenges — ensuring that county services are delivered on declining resources.

“Much time, effort and planning has been carried out by the commissioner’s office to make sure vital and important county services can be provided to the citizens, without interruption. In recent years, the commissioner and his staff have shifted its primary focus from growth management to financial management, which brought on a variety of cost cutting measures,” she said. “During these economic times, the commissioner’s office has tried to lead by example to the other county offices by making our equipment and resources last as long as possible. It is apparent that the 2013 fiscal year will require very tight financial management as revenues continue to decline.”