Job Not Laughing Matter

Jim Smith laughs easily during a discussion, but don’t let the easy demeanor of the Tulsa County Budget Board fiscal officer fool you.

When it comes to accounting, Smith is very serious about his job and is highly aware of his role keeping close tabs on the county’s finances.

He also feels that it somewhat ironic that he the financial officer title since other county departments also have people in similar roles.

But the difference for Smith is that as the budget board CFO, he is accountable to all elected county officials, the commissioners, court clerk, county clerk, treasurer, assessor and sheriff. It is this board that sets the amounts that each department will operate on during the fiscal year beginning July 1 and ending June 30.

In addition, Smith is responsible for tracking funding for both Vision 2025 and 4 to Fix Tulsa County.

PMg is charged with due diligence on the different projects and contracts.

‘‘This office doesn’t set policy or make distribution decisions,’’ he continued. That is the responsibility the budget board’s responsibility.

Smith oversees various accounts including the $53 million county general fund; $25 million criminal justice authority; and additional monies such as the $328 million in the Vision 2025 account; $11.8 million in phase one and $12.9 million the second phase of the 4 to Fix Tulsa County projects.

He also noted that $231,942 in funds have been designated for various Vision 2025 construction projects.

Accounting work is nothing new for Smith who worked for the City of Fayetteville, Ark., for more than seven years.

He had just earned a masters degree in Science and Accounting from the University of Arkansas. He also is a Certified Public Accountant.

Promotions came and he was in charge of the Fayetteville Community Development office with responsibilities in contractual and grant coordination.

From there it was the role as water and sewer services superintendent, a role that also included supervising meter readers.

From Arkansas, it was to Sapulpa so the Smiths could be closer to parents in Bixby and Midwest City.

There is a ‘‘yes and no’’ similarity between government and private business financial reporting, he said. Both disciplines without question demand accurate reporting.

But dealing with government funding gets complicated because so many different types of funds are involved.

While working with the City of Sapulpa, Smith would find himself dividing funds many different ways, placing them in special accounts as designated by voters.

For example, there are accounts for parks, another for fire, still another for fire and police.

This complicates the accounting process, Smith said.

Before becoming an accountant, Smith was the pastor of a church, earning a Masters Degree in Divinity from Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary.

One of the lessons he learned as a pastor was dealing with volunteers which made up between 90 percent and 98 percent of the workforce at the church.

He now uses those skills to motivate people earning a paycheck, citing the loss (of the paycheck) if they fail to do their job properly.

‘‘I am very thankful to be working for Tulsa County and my role with the budget board,’’ Smith continued. County officials are dedicated in their desire to work together to improve services to clients — taxpayers.

He also is excited about a new accounting system scheduled to be put into operation either next year or in 2008.

County employees working in the IT part of the county also are very supportive and eager to see upgrades, Smith said. ‘‘I am looking forward to more improvements that will make it possible to do a better analysis of the county’s financial picture.’’

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