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Commission OKs clean county audit
Commissioners, auditors note weaknesses in Treasurers Office
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In other business Monday Morning, the Barton County Commission:

•  Landfill officials are seeking KDHE approval for a permit modification to expand permitted airspace to extend the life of the Landfill and the agency requires that the permit modification meets these requirements, said Landfill Director Phil Hathcock. As documentation of conformity to the plan, SCS Aquaterra has provided a construction drawing detailing final elevations for the permit modification.

The new permit will extend the life of the facility by 30-35 years by utilizing and area between hills without having to expand the size of the landfill, Hathcock said. He estimated the landfill will now last 60-65 years.

• Approved the 2016 Budget Carryover Reimbursement/Program Income Funds for Juvenile Services as prepared by Director Laurie White. The Kansas Department of Corrections/Juvenile Services will implement new processes for Fiscal Year 2016. Grantees, like Juvenile Services, will be required to budget carryover reimbursement/program income funds. In order to track expenditures made using funds collected in previous years, a budget must be created. 

The total was $22,837. Of that, $15,891 will go towards the salary and benefits for a program coordinator, $5,900 will go towards drug testing supplies and the rest towards cognitive skills programs.

• Approved the Central Kansas Community Corrections Fiscal Year 2016 Carry-over Reimbursement Plan Budget. The Kansas Department of Corrections requires a budget submission of local program funding collected by community corrections agencies from program fees and reimbursements. These budgets require the review and approval of the Barton County Commissioners, as the administrative county for the district, said CKCC Director Amy Boxberger. 

The total was $101,358. Funds will be use to cover the cost of an added position, travel, training, supplies and equipment, and facility maintenance costs. 

• Approved a bid from L&M Contractors of Great Bend for $76,800 to replace the steel girders and deck of off-System Bridge 300. The bridge is located 1.8 miles east and 11.9 miles north of Claflin.

As a part of the $10.6 million Kansas Local Bridge Improvement Program, this is one of 77 projects selected. It is noted that the project cost will be reimbursed at a rate of 90 percent State and 10 percent local, up to the maximum amount of $120,000, said County Administrator Richard Boeckman.

 Noting on-going shortcomings in the Barton County Treasurer’s Office that have foisted more responsibility onto other departments, the County Commission Monday morning approved a 2015 audit that painted a good picture of the county’s financial condition. 

The county received a clean, or unqualified opinion, which is the best opinion possible, said Amber Littler of Adams, Brown, Beran and Ball. “The county is very conservative and is fiscally sound.”

It also has no debt, which is rare, Littler said. 

Further more, “there were no budget violations,” she said. All of the county funds were under budget.

The county started 2014 with an unencumbered cash balance of $12,919,805. It ended the year with an unencumbered balance of $13,687,835, and after adding accounts payable, had a total ending balance of $16,248,771.

That was the good news.

There were two violations of state statutes. The first was the tardy tax distributions made by the Treasurer’s Office and the second was a Clerk of the District Court bank account that was not secured (steps have been taken to rectify this, Littler said).

In addition, there were two “material weaknesses,” both originating in the Treasurer’s Office, Littler said. This is the most severe level of violation that can be noted. 

These were the delayed tax roll reconciliations and depositing of payments.

The late reconciliations have delayed the county’s budget and are impacting planning for other taxing entities in the county. The tax rolls should be done monthly and be ready in May, but were not even started until April.

The late deposits throw off tax distributions to these other governing bodies. Littler noted an $800,000 real estate property tax check that was not deposited until after tax distributions were made. The entities called and said they had been shorted and the late deposit forced the county to make an additional distribution.

ABBB also noted on “significant deficiency,” which is one step less severe than a weakness. This came from the county not generating a complete journal entry report to document transactions.

Littler said the county-wide computer bookkeeping system allows for a consistent and uniform report which is an important tool for cross-checking records between departments. However, she stressed, “this is not directed at the county clerk.”

County Clerk Donna Zimmerman has taken on additional responsibilities due to “deficiencies in the Treasurer’s Office,” Littler said. “If not for her taking over, we’d be in worse shape than we are now.”

There was also a several of other comments, some held over from last year. Among these were: The treatment of petty cash and receipts in a couple departments; the need for increased cross training; using the county-wide software system to track inventory; and, in the Treasurer’s Office, the posting of taxpayer information on the county’s website, and the strengthening of internal controls in the Treasurer’s Office, including incoming taxes in the form of abatements, refunds, and added and escaped taxes.

Littler stressed department heads had been very cooperative and most of the matters had already been or were in the process of being resolved. She did say there had been some improvement in the Treasurer’s Office, but noted issues lingered.

Initially, County Treasurer Kevin Wondra was not at the Monday meeting. However, Commissioner Homer Kruckenberg asked where he was and asked he be called about attending since many of the charges were leveled at him and his department.

Wondra was notified and arrived a short time later.

The commission has seen the same kind of recommendations from the auditors for years regarding the Treasurer’s Office, Commissioner Jennifer Schartz said. She asked Littler what could happen if the problems don’t get rectified.

“It goes back to the individual in charge of the department,” Littler said. There could be continued material weaknesses that could eventually lead to the pulling of federal grants, grants that fund important county programs.

Littler cited the case of the Family Crisis Center that almost lost federal funding because of the Treasurer’s Office and its failure to reconcile bank records and tax rolls. The feds didn’t trust the county to be the sponsor for the grant.

The City of Great Bend stepped in to help so the center was able to receive the money, but it was an example of what could happen, Littler said. “It could be detrimental to the county. The tax payers could suffer.”

“I intend to get these taken care of,” Wondra said, adding his staff is working on the online record access.

As for getting all deposits made by the end of the year, that was not emphasized by his predecessor, Wondra said. So, he didn’t initially understand the importance of it.

That wasn’t an excuse, Littler said. “That’s standard accounting procedure.”