| By Billy Davis
A government accounting system intended to estimate the worth of Panola County’s road and bridges will also serve a dual purpose: improving the services of the road department.
The accounting system, GASB (Government Accounting Standards Board), is required by the federal government to ensure that states, counties and municipalities maintain easily accessible financial records.
To comply with the latest GASB requirement, Panola County must list then continually update the cost estimates of 900 miles of country roads and more than 200 bridges to comply with a federal requirement.
Panola County road manager Lygunnah Bean, who is overseeing the project, intends to use the new computer system to improve the daily flow of information and road work.
County road department clerk Bobby Jones will use the system to receive and pass on work requests from citizens, hand out work orders to workers, and maintain a listing of work hours and assignments.
"A lot of this we’re doing already so people won’t see a change in our service to them," Bean said, "but we’ll have a system that will hold us more accountable and help us manage."
Panola County and its cousin counties across the state were required to be GASB compliant by June, 1999, but none of the counties hit the deadline, said Bean.
Right now, Panola County engineer Larry Britt is preparing a cost estimate of the county’s roads and bridges while Jones is researching computer software to accommodate the coming flow of road and bridge data.
The first detailed report of Panola County’s infrastructure must be submitted by October, 2007.
Before working for Panola County, Jones and Bean worked together at Batesville American, the now-closed plant where Bean served as manager and Jones served as quality manager.
At Batesville American, both men were familiar with GAAP, the private sector’s financial accounting version of GASB. GAAP stands for General Accepted Accounting Principles.
Jones used computer software to produce and tweak various policies and procedures at the Batesville plant, Bean said, and the county road manager is relying on the new hire to perform a similar task for the county.
The board of supervisors hired Jones last month at Bean’s request.
When county supervisors hired Bean in 2003, he was told that resolving the county’s GASB compliance would be part of his job requirement.
"The first thing they talked about with me was GASB," Bean said.
District 4 Supervisor Jerry Perkins recalled that Bean’s hiring coincided with chatter among counties and state agencies that the federal government was pushing GASB compliance.
"And when you looked at (Bean’s) resume, he certainly was qualified to take care of GASB," Perkins said.
The importance of GASB – besides being required – is that a cost estimate of roads and bridges could improve the county’s bond rating, which relates to its borrowing power, Bean said.
"And I think, personally, that it will be required in the future for federal and state grants," Bean added.
When Jones prints out records of road maintenance and paving, the results will break down various expenses such as the cost of materials and man hours on individual roads, in each of the county’s five districts, and across the entire county.
"When you buy a computer, you can buy it to play Solitaire on or to put your home budget on," Bean added. "We’re not buying it to play Solitaire – we’re using this to put our whole budget on it so we’ll know where our dollars are coming from and our dollars are going."