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2009 audit has good news for the county

POSTED August 3, 2010 3:30 p.m.

At a time when it’s difficult to pick up the national news without finding out about more financial tragedy, the results of the Barton County 2009 audit were a ray of sunshine.
Amber Georg, representing Adams, Brown, Beran and Ball accountants, reported good news on the 2009 audit, recently completed on county records.
The study showed that the county began 2009 with a little over $15 million in cash balances and closed it with a little over $17 million, so it increased its cash balances by $2 million during the course of the year, Georg observed.
“The county is sitting in a very good position.”
All of the General Fund balances were kept under budget for the year, she added. “There were no statute violations.”
And the county showed cash receipts that were $1 million more than a year earlier. Part of that was due to the CPI loan payoff that came in 2009. Georg noted that included the $1.7 million principal repayment from the local firm.
Special audit steps were required, due to the amount of federal funding that goes through the county; however, that was all appropriate, too, Georg reported, adding there were “no significant deficiencies.”
A large part of the federal funding in 2009 came through the Health Department, including more than $225,000 in the WIC program, as well as another $183,000 for other health programs that receive federal funds.
Georg told the commissioners that there continue to be some challenges with the various accounts in the Sheriff’s Office, specifically involving the checking and inmate accounts.
However, Accountant Terry Brown, who had worked on earlier problems with those accounts noted that there have been improvements.
Brown also commented about what the accountants found in auditing the Treasurer’s Office, comparing it with problems Brown had addressed in previous years. “Things are going much better up there,” Brown said. “It is vastly improved.”
Brown was asked about the recent situation in which there was more than $45,000, too much, refunded to a business.
In that incident, an order from the Court of Tax Appeals granted the company an exemption, which meant it had a refund coming from the county. The firm had sought $75,094.90. The court approved a payment of $29,918.08. That involved Starr F. Schlobohm Oil Operations, a New Hampshire business with operations in Kansas
When the refund was processed, it was for the whole amount, so it was overpaid by $45,176.82. The payment began in the County Appraiser’s Office and the check was issued through the County Treasurer’s Office.
Brown was asked if the county’s system seems appropriate to make sure such a mistake doesn’t happen.
He noted that the internal controls are there to address the situation, which happened due to human error. “This was an isolated problem. It hasn’t been a problem in the past,” Brown commented.
In the course of studying the county’s systems, however, Georg noted that the accountants did see a need for improved software.
“We need a system that ties all the systems in the county together,” she commented.
County Administrator Richard Boeckman explained that he and County Information Technology Director John Debes addressed this situation a couple of years ago and the appropriate software would have cost the county about $300,000.
Several vendors were considered, and the issue could still be addressed.
In other technology safety areas, Georg said there is a need for Internet passwords to be changed more regularly and for accounts that were held by former employees to be closed out, so they cannot be accessed.
Boeckman noted that the county does have an Internet policy and he will continue to consider it with Debes to address the concerns raised during the audit.
The 2009 audit was accepted by the commissioners.

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