comptroller

Threatened with state takeover, Hawkins County approves $40 wheel tax

The Hawkins County Commission approved a $40 wheel tax increase on Monday to avoid a threatened takeover of the county’s financial affairs by the state comptroller’s office, reports the Kingsport Times-News. But that doesn’t necessarily resolve the county’s budgeting troubles.

Now the Hawkins County Commission must wait 30 days to see if 1,095 registered Hawkins County voters, which is 10 percent of the Hawkins County voters who cast a ballot in the last gubernatorial election in 2014, sign a petition to require a special election referendum to let the county’s voters decide the fate of the wheel tax increase.

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Nonprofit Mississippi River group dissolves after audit questions arise

A nonprofit group established protect and promote the Mississippi River in the stretch along Tennessee’s border has ceased operations after state auditors alleged improper bidding procedures in the design and construction of a $2 million visitors center, reports the Commercial Appeal.

The board of directors of the Mississippi River Corridor-Tennessee voted to dissolve because the Tennessee Department of Transportation terminated a contract with the group and quit paying invoices, said Diana Threadgill, president and executive director. “We just ran out of money,” she said.

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Hawkins County warned of state takeover unless budget deficit is fixed

Tennessee Comptroller Chief of Staff Jason Mumpower said Monday that Hawkins County’s budget situation is currently the worst in the state and there’s a possibility that the state would take over county finances, cutting funding to many agencies, reports the Kingsport Times News.

Mumpower addressed the Hawkins County Commission Budget Committee to warn of looming dire consequences.

If there is a state takeover of Hawkins County’s budget, Mumpower noted that on top of a property tax increase there would also be the elimination of 100 percent of all contributions, affecting funding for all volunteer fire departments, both rescue squads, Hawkins County EMS, the Hawkins County Humane Society and the Red Cross.

Other non-mandated spending on the block would be veterans services, industrial recruitment, the county’s agricultural extension agency, senior centers, libraries, Of One Accord, the Chip Hale Center and many others.

But those cuts wouldn’t be enough to balance Hawkins County’s budget. As of Monday, Hawkins County still faced a $1.6 million revenue deficit in the proposed 2017-18 budget. Even after all non-mandated spending was cut, the state would also likely impose a property tax rate increase, Mumpower said.

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Comptroller poses 53 questions on JLL outsourcing contract, awaits answers

State Comptroller Justin Wilson’s office has run a proverbial fine-toothed comb through the governor’s potential building management contract with Chicago- based Jones Lang LaSalle, reports the Times Free Press.

The contract is valued at an estimated $1.9 billion over a five-year period, the amount state and higher education facilities are expected to pay for operating their buildings.

As a result of the review, Wilson said in an interview, administration officials have “already indicated to me they will make changes. Now what they are exactly I don’t know.”

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Comptroller: TN county governments haven’t been fouling up finances as much lately

News release from Office of the State Comptroller

Tennessee Comptroller Justin P. Wilson is pleased to announce that all 95 Tennessee county audits for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2016 have been released, and the results are very encouraging.

“We continue to see a decline in the number of audit findings across the state of Tennessee,” said Justin P. Wilson. “This is a sign of improved financial management and accountability over taxpayer money.”

The Comptroller’s Office completes the annual audits of 89 of Tennessee’s 95. The other six counties (Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, McMinn, Shelby and Washington) are audited by private Certified Public Accountants.

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Comptroller catches government thieves in Claiborne, Fayette, Jefferson, Sumner counties

The ever-vigilant state comptroller’s office reports finding thievery afoot at Powell Valley Elementary School in Claiborne County, the city recorder’s office in the Sumner County city of Gallatin, a parks office and a school system Fayette County and at the New Market Volunteer Fire Department in Jefferson County in recent auditing of local government entities.

There are also “several questions” about activities at the town of Oakland in Fayette County generally along with the indictment of an official who worked both for the town and as athletic director of Fayette County schools.

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Comptroller finds more missing money in DHS nutrition programs

News release from state comptroller’s office

Comptroller Justin P. Wilson has released investigations detailing serious issues within two organizations working under the Tennessee Department of Human Services’ Child and Adult Care Food Program and Summer Food Service Program respectively.

The Comptroller’s Office worked in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General in its investigation of All About Giving, Inc. All About Giving, a nonprofit organization formerly located in Nashville and Knoxville, assisted daycare homes by submitting meal reimbursement requests to DHS for meals provided to children.

Investigators questioned several large cash withdrawals and expenditures made by All About Giving. Questionable expenditures included money spent on Xbox, Google Live, Big Fish Games, Shoe Carnival, Perfume Paradise, and in-state and out-of-state hotel charges. Investigators analyzed $230,569.33 of expenditures and found documentation to support only $19.60 for postage stamp purchases.

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Comptroller puts TN school funding calculator online

News release from state Comptroller’s office

Tennessee’s K-12 public schools depend on the state’s Basic Education Program (BEP) formula to distribute nearly $4.4 billion in state funding. For years the BEP has been calculated by the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) without any way to verify the results. Now, the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office has created a method to independently calculate and verify the BEP.

The Comptroller’s Office of Research and Education Accountability has reconstructed the entire BEP calculation from scratch using input data for student enrollment, unit costs, and other factors.

The Comptroller is also bringing transparency to the BEP formula by making its BEP Calculator publicly available to all Tennesseans. Details and dollar amounts for every school district in Tennessee can now be downloaded from the Comptroller’s website. Users can even create their own scenarios using different inputs – teacher salaries, insurance premiums, etc. – to see how changes impact BEP allocations.

The Comptroller has also created an interactive map where you can easily view of snapshot of essential BEP facts and figures for each of Tennessee’s 141 school districts.

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Title IX complaints increase at UT, Board of Regents

A state Comptroller’s report says the number of Title IX complaints reported at the University of Tennessee and the state Board of Regents has increased in the past year and more than doubled in the last year, reports The Tennessean.

At UT, there were 129 complaints reported system-wide in fiscal year 2016, compared to 54 in 2015 and just one in 2013. The board reported 200 complaints in fiscal year 2016, up from 174 in the previous year and 76 in 2013.  (Note: The report is HERE.)

Officials from both the Board of Regents and the university said the rise in complaints is indicative of an increase in reporting and changes in reporting requirements, as opposed to an increase in actual Title IX violations, which may include gender discrimination, sexual harassment or domestic violence between students.

“I think it’s a good thing,” said Jenny Richter, Title IX coordinator for the University of Tennessee Knoxville and associate vice chancellor and director of the Office of Equity and Diversity. “We know these types of complaints are under-reported and I think the efforts made by (the Center for Health Education and Wellness) to educate our students, efforts by our faculty, by people at high administrative efforts, the training efforts we’ve made are bound to bring some focus to it.”

…The rise also coincides with a federal lawsuit against the university alleging a “hostile sexual environment” and accusing the school of mismanaging sexual assault cases. The case was settled in July for $2.48 million.

Richter said she was not surprised to see a difference in the number of complaints reported between institutions of higher education and other state entities, where no more than one complaint was reported in 2016, if at all.

As terms of the lawsuit settlement, the university was required to adopt a list of “Title IX enhancements” including adding summaries of prevention programs and training to data reports and sexual misconduct between students, ending the practice of distributing written lists of lawyers to student athletes and enhancing and and enforcing mandatory sexual assault training for UT employees. 

The university also announced plans for an independent commission to review policies and programs related to sexual misconduct and the hire of six new staff members to work on sexual assault prevention and awareness.

Many of those changes fell into place after July, while the report shows the number of complaints for the fiscal year that ended June 30.

Comptroller drafts model open records policy

News release from state comptroller’s office:

For the first time in state history, Tennessee government entities now have a model policy to help define how public records requests are handled.

The Comptroller’s Office of Open Records Counsel (OORC) established a model public records policy to assist all Tennessee government entities. The model policy was created after Representative Bill Dunn and Senator Richard Briggs led the passage of Public Chapter 722 during the 109th Tennessee General Assembly.

Public Chapter 722 requires every governmental entity subject to the Tennessee Public Records Act to establish a written public records policy by July 1, 2017. The policy must be adopted by the appropriate governing authority, and the OORC model policy will serve as a helpful resource.

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