Woody’s finance policies get commission OK

-A A +A
By Damon Lawrence

It’s no secret that Roane County Executive Ron Woody gets worked up about finance.

That’s why he couldn’t hide his enthusiasm earlier this month after Roane County Commission passed his policies on debt management and capital projects.  

“I’m excited,” he said. “I really am.”

Putting the policies together for the county was something Woody, an accountant, promised voters during last year’s campaign. Both can be found on the county executive’s page on roanegov.org.

“Some of the techniques that we have in the policies are things that have been developed over the last 30 years of my career,” he said.

Despite his experience with finance, Woody said putting the policies together did present challenges.

“You couldn’t go out there and borrow somebody’s because there’s not that many out there,” he said. “What you do is try to model a policy of a county in your similar size, and we just didn’t find any out there.”

The capital projects policy lists five objectives:

• Provide an educational briefing of the categories of capital assets and their accounting in general operating funds and/or capital outlay funds.

• Allow decisions to be transparent.

• Provide a medium in which long term planning for new and replacement assets can be studied.

• Identify revenue streams that can support capital projects.

• Create an accounting plan which will help in establishing and maintaining creditability for capital management.

During the campaign, Woody said one of the things that irked him was the county’s practice of leasing patrol cars and borrowing money for assets with a short life expectancy, such as computers and radios.

The capital projects policy says those kind of items will be purchased with operating funds.

The debt management policy lists five objectives:

• Provide a synopsis of the types of financing available to Roane County: thereby obtaining an understanding of the transaction and related cost and risk.

• Enhance decision process transparency.

• Identify all expenditures of principal, interest  and annual costs along with issue specific transaction costs.

• Address hiring outside professionals and any potential conflict of interest issues.

• Requirements and decision making checklist for new debt.

“It’s responsible government,” Commissioner Randy Ellis said. “It’s basically balancing your checkbook and living within your means. I think it’s a great idea. I wish we had done this 20 years ago.”

The debt policy seeks to guard against conflicts of interest on the occasions the county needs to hire someone for financial advice or assistance with the issuance of debt.   

“Instead of me trying to figure out if there’s a conflict of interest, we’re going to put the burden on them that they’re going to have to put into writing to us that there is none,” Woody said. “Because if they put it into writing that there is none and we discover that there are conflicts of interest, then we’ll have grounds to take action against them.”   

Woody said the debt policy also mandates companies to state what the costs for services are before a contract is entered into.

“We’re saying if you’re going to do business with us, you’re going to tell us up front what it’s going to cost us,” he said. “We’re not going to see what they call in the industry soft costs, costs that are somewhat hidden.”

Woody said the public can also expect to see an annual debt report.

“We’re hoping to have our first one done by the middle of next month,” he said.