VOL. 133 | NO. 23 | Wednesday, January 31, 2018
Ford Outlines Budget Process As Memphis’ New CFO
By Kate Simone
Shirley Ford has been named chief financial officer for the city of Memphis. Ford, who was selected to be CFO by Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and confirmed by the City Council, has served as the city’s comptroller since 2014. She has more than 30 years of financial, accounting and managerial experience. In addition, she is a certified public accountant and a certified municipal finance officer as designated by the state comptroller.
As CFO, Ford is a member of the city’s senior leadership team and is responsible for budget analysis and management, accounting and treasury operations, and investment strategies, among other fiscal duties related to the city’s annual revenue of nearly $1.2 billion.
Hometown: Crossville, Tennessee, is my hometown, but my home is Memphis.
Experience: I have over 30 years of financial, accounting and managerial experience. I was appointed by the mayor as comptroller for the city of Memphis in November 2014. In that role, I was responsible for management of the accounting and financial reporting activities of the city. As the comptroller, I also served as a member of the pension board for the city of Memphis as well as the Healthcare Oversight Committee and Pension Investment Committee.
I am recognized by the state of Tennessee as a certified public accountant, and I carry the designation of certified municipal finance officer authorized by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office. I obtained a Bachelor of Business Administration in accounting and a Master of Business through the Executive MBA Program of the University of Memphis.
What talent do you wish you had? I wish I had a great singing voice. No matter how many times I might think I am in key, I must admit that I sound best when alone in the car – with the windows rolled up.
Who has had the greatest influence on you and why? There are actually two women who have been a great influence in my life: My mother, who taught me how to be independent while still maintaining strong personal connections, supported me with belief and encouragement, and loves me deeply. The other is my daughter, who has challenged and encouraged me to always be the best that I can be. Part of my drive is to be a person that both of them are proud of.
As comptroller, how close have you been to the city’s day-to-day finances? As comptroller, I was directly involved with the day-to-day finances of the city. I worked under the direction of the chief financial officer, and was responsible for directing the financial management functions for the city of Memphis, which includes financial accounting and reporting, accounts payables and receivables, supervision of payroll processing and the records management and retention for the city. I was also responsibilities for supervising the annual state-required financial audit, and the preparation, publication and distribution of the city’s comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR) and the comprehensive quarterly reports in compliance with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) and Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) principles and standards, an s well as the annual disclosure and publication of the schedule of expenditures of federal and state awards (SEFA or single audit).
The administration’s budget proposal is presented to the council in the spring. Is the process of making that budget already underway? Yes, the city is in the process of reviewing second-quarter activities and forecasting for year-end, which is the springboard for the new fiscal year budgeting process. The capital improvement program (CIP) hearings are also underway.
The city budget is a moving target in many ways. The unexpected comes up, and it usually ends up costing something. So how do you plan for the unexpected when setting a budget? Being responsive to those types of issues drives at the heart of conservative budgeting, controlled spending, and providing good fiscal stewardship. By maintaining acceptable levels of “unassigned” fund balance, the city better positions itself to respond to the unexpected.
How critical is a stable source of revenue from property taxes and sales tax to the city’s ability to plan its finances? Extremely. Balancing steady revenue sources (resource inflows) to expanding uses (resource outflows) is one of the biggest challenges in starting the budget process. For example, we know that the revenue from the Hall tax will decline while expenses for public safety will increase. That is why it remains ever so important to control spending while actively and aggressively looking for ways to fill those type of gaps.
As chief financial officer, do you give the council options for the way a budget can go or do you go to them with a specific recommendation? This will be my first full budget process for the city. Typically, the process starts in January with the division, and administrative reviews are held in March to examine the requests and to provide the proposed budgets, which the mayor submits to the council on the third Tuesday in April. The council conducts its own hearings through May and June, with the ultimate goal being an approved budget and spending ordinance adopted prior to the end of the fiscal year.
My plan is to concurrently work with the council during the proposal process and be available to provide information and respond to inquiries. To successfully address the mayor’s priorities for the coming fiscal year, it is imperative to be collaborative in the endeavor.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment? Being appointed as the CFO for the city of Memphis!
What do you most enjoy about your work? My enthusiasm for learning fires the challenge to continuously improve. I take great satisfaction from being productive and being involved with new initiatives. I am very passionate about my service to our city, and launching a new initiative or program, offering strategic input to our processes, providing information for sound financial decisions and delivering good fiscal stewardship feeds that passion. This is a very exciting time for Memphis.
If you could give one piece of advice to young people, what would it be? Discover your passion and develop talents to support your goals. Find a good mentor – they can provide invaluable guidance, empower you, engage you and enable you.
Pearl Shaw has been appointed President of Saad&Shaw – Comprehensive Fund Development Services. Shaw’s experience includes private-sector business development and nonprofit fund development. She has worked directly with college and university presidents, trustees and nonprofit executives for the past 14 years, providing guidance and coaching in the areas of campaign planning and case for support development.
Gracie Lee has been promoted to account specialist at Obsidian Public Relations. Lee joined Obsidian in May 2016 as a level 2 intern following her graduation from the University of Tennessee Knoxville. She most recently served as account assistant since January 2017.
Jim Barton Jr., head of portfolio risk management, principal at Southeastern Asset Management, has been named to the second 16-member class of Legends of Ivy League Basketball. Barton, a 1989 Dartmouth College graduate, is one of two individuals selected by Dartmouth’s athletics department for their contributions to the college, its basketball program and their chosen professions. A two-time All-Ivy League First Team performer and the conference Rookie of the Year, Barton is the most prolific scorer in Dartmouth men’s basketball history with 2,158 points and second only to Princeton’s Bill Bradley in Ivy League history.
SRVS has named Dottie Jones chairman of its board of directors. Jones is executive director of CoactionNet. In addition, SRVS has added two members to its advisory council: Molly Griffin, a Covington High School teacher; and Katrina Robinson Lee, founder & executive director of The Healthcare Institute Inc.
Rhodes College is profiled among the nation’s best colleges for academics, career preparation, and affordability in The Princeton Review’s 2018 edition of Colleges That Pay You Back: The 200 Schools That Give You the Best Bang for Your Tuition Buck. The Princeton Review chose the schools based on data it collected in 2016-17 from surveys of administrators at more than 650 colleges. It also factored in surveys of current students and alumni.