CTAS CCFO Program Strengthens County Financial Operations

A program designed to improve Tennessee county financial operations and the skills of finance personnel will graduate its first class, 180 members strong, in December.

This is the very first class to graduate the Certified County Finance Officer (CCFO) program, which was started in May 2018 by the University of Tennessee Institute for Public Service’s County Technical Assistance Service (CTAS). The CCFO program is administered and taught by CTAS staff with support provided by the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury.

The CCFO program consists of 11 monthly classes that includes topics such as county budgeting, internal controls, purchasing, governmental accounting I & II, financial reporting I & II, risk management, pensions and other post-employment benefit plans. The CCFO classes were taught at several locations across the state of Tennessee including Knoxville, Cookeville, Franklin and Jackson. Enrollment for the 2020-2021 CCFO was finalized in November 2019 with the first class offered in January 2020 with Memphis added as a new class location.

“The CCFO program was not fully staffed by CTAS until later in 2019, which required a tremendous team effort to develop and teach the classes,” said CCFO Program Manager John Sutton. “This included hundreds of professional and technical hours of support provided by the CTAS field staff, CTAS legal staff, the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury and external reviews provided by Dr. Tammy Waymire, associate professor of accounting at Middle Tennessee State University.”

Chris Caldwell, senior director of finance for Knox County is one of the 180 members of the first CCFO cohort.

“I found the Certified County Finance Officers (CCFO) program to be a great benefit to me and my staff who attended all 11 courses,” Caldwell said. “I think it’s important for every one of our finance team members to obtain this type of training since it will help all of us better understand the requirements of operating an excellent financial management system for our county. Our staff now has a better understanding of the numerous accounting, compliance and regulatory requirements, but also an increased awareness of why they are required. Thank you CTAS.”

The CCFO program is designed to improve the skills of finance personnel and provide an in-depth knowledge of the various topics needed to help better manage county finances. The CCFO program encourages class participants to collaborate more with other departments within their counties and is emphasized with several case studies and group exercises to equip the participants to better understand the various financial issues and problems facing counties.

The CTAS CCFO program staff includes Sutton, who has over 35 years of experience in local governmental accounting and auditing, and training consultants Kelley McNeal, who was previously an information systems auditor for 23 years with the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury and Rachel Ellington who previously was the budget director for Haywood County and a tax consultant for Deloitte CPAs.

For more information contact: john.sutton@tennessee.edu, kelley.mcneal@tennessee.edu or rachel.ellington@tennessee.edu.