In the first graduating class of its kind in Tennessee, 97 municipal government officials from across the state have been recognized as “Certified Municipal Financial Officers” through a state-required curriculum.

The graduates completed a rigorous 10-session program over two years and received certificates at a ceremony in Nashville Jan. 27 from state Comptroller Justin Wilson and Mary Jinks, vice president of the University of Tennessee Institute of Public Service.

The comptroller oversees the program while the training, including exams, is offered by the Municipal Technical Advisory Service, a division of the institute.

“I commend all of the local government officials who successfully completed the certification process,” Wilson said. “I believe that their increased levels of training will help them become even better stewards of the taxpayers’ money.”

The municipal certification program was ordered by the Tennessee General Assembly in 2007. Lawmakers require at least one individual from each of the state’s 347 incorporated municipalities to obtain certification by a certain date, though the law provides for exceptions.

The intent is “to ensure competence in the handling of municipal funds and the protection of public moneys,” according to the enabling law. A violation could subject a city to a civil penalty of up to $50 per day. Once certified, local government officials must take a minimum number of hours of continuing professional education courses every two years in order to keep their certification current.

Currently, there is no requirement for county officials to become certified, according to Blake Fontenay, spokesman for the comptroller. “To the best of our knowledge, no other state has a similar certification requirement,” he said.

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