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County audit headed to state in time
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The 2014 audit of Effingham County’s operations came back with only three findings and no material weaknesses and has been forwarded to the state for its review.

Commissioners received the audit last month, just in time to get it to the state before the deadline.

“This is what I’ve been looking forward to since July 1,” said Chairman Wendall Kessler.

Thigpen, Lanier, Westerfield and Deal, a Statesboro accounting firm, also completed the 2013 audit earlier this year.

Commissioners also voted to transmit the audit to the state Department of Revenue. The audit is due by Dec. 31, or else the county incurs a penalty. The county twice had been given extensions on previous audits but had exhausted its available allowances.

“I want to thank you for getting this done,” Kessler said to the auditors. “We can’t take a chance on being late again.”

“I’m just so thankful everybody worked together and got it to us in a timely manner,” added Commissioner Vera Jones.

The audit, presented by Richard Deal and Kay Proctor, pointed out that during a review of the minutes the county took possession of property that was not recorded in the financial records. Auditors recommended that to address this, the county staff should place documents quarterly regarding each document in a public share drive. That would enable them to be cross-checked and there should be a review at the end of each fiscal year.

Auditors also noted a $110,000 retainage not recorded in a special purpose local option sales tax fund during a review of construction contracts. They recommended construction contracts be reviewed for unrecorded retainage prior to the closing of the fiscal year. County finance director Joanna Wright said all the other retainages were recorded but this instance was an oversight.

For its third finding, auditors said capital outlays in the sheriff’s special fund were not segregated from operating expenditures and prepaid expenses for software not installed and in use were not recorded as assets. The recommendation is for the finance department review the activity of the special funds to ensure the disbursements are recorded properly.

“There have been a lot of improvements,” Proctor said. “The finance department took the findings to heart. The constitutional officers have been very helpful in the process.”

The retainage finding was an isolated liability, Proctor said, and of the third finding, all the transactions were recorded in the sheriff’s office QuickBooks program but did not translate into the trial balances and fixed asset records.

The audit also showed the county’s financial health and reviewed its revenues and expenditures for the recently-completed 2014 fiscal year. The county took in $28.1 million in revenues after collecting $27.4 million in revenues the prior fiscal year. The increase in property taxes was due to the higher ad valorem taxes for tags and titles and taxes from prior years, even though the millage rate did not increase.

Expenditures for FY14 were $27.2 million, after expenditures reached $27.9 million in FY13. Public safety takes up about 52 percent of the county’s spending, with general government accounting for about 16 percent of the expenditures.

The county’s special purpose local option sales tax brought in more than $8 million for the past fiscal year. The county still has projects ongoing from the 2007 SPLOST, in addition to the work being funded by the 2012 SPLOST. The county has spent about $1.2 million in SPLOST on ash roads. 

“It’s important for citizens to know what we’re spending SPLOST dollars on,” Wright said. “One of the major things we’ve done is the $16 million for the jail and sheriff’s administrative complex. We have about 21 miles of ash road repair and resurfacing that is in progress. We’re looking at about 12 roads in 2015.”