Bowie County’s recently-appointed Financial Advisory Committee has made many recommendations to help “turn the ship around” in regards to the county’s finances, especially regarding the budget. They’ve used Texarkana College’s success as an example, so today I spoke with Texarkana College president James Henry Russell about an aspect that hasn’t received as much attention from the committee – financial reporting.
Last Monday, Bowie County Judge Sterling Lacy asked his son, Steve Lacy, an auditor with over 20 years experience in non-profit organizations, to make a presentation regarding widely varying reports from County Auditor William Tye on the cash available on October 1, 2013 (the first day of the new fiscal year). At the beginning of the year, Tye told Commissioners Court that the county had $2.2 million available. Seven months into the fiscal year, he reported that the county started the year with a negative balance of $667,000, and a month later he said the year began with a negative balance of $3.4 million.
Tye responded that the early numbers were estimates, and that the only time he can provide exact numbers is after the end of the fiscal year, when all revenue and expenses are accrued. Steve Lacy then told the Court that there is no way they could make accurate financial decisions each month without that information.
I remembered that President Russell had seen the presentation, so I asked him specifically about Texarkana College’s financial reporting. He explained that Kimberly Jones, TC’s Chief Financial Officer, formally presents a financial report each month, in public, to the Board of Directors. Russell said, “Monthly financials are critical to stay on track.”
I then asked Russell about the state of affairs at Texarkana College in general, and he said that the college indeed had made a turn-around, although there is still some progress to be made. He said:
We had to commit to putting policies and procedures in place so we could make sure what had happened in the past would not occur in the future. It takes a solid team, working together, to accomplish this, and that’s what we’ve become. We can never get comfortable with where we are and must always be diligent in watching the financial situation. Years of hard work and great budgets can quickly disappear if controls and procedures are not in place.