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County struggles with audit results

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By LPR Staff

Editor/POST-REGISTER

 

Caldwell County is still grappling with the fallout from accounting problems that came to light more than a year ago.

According to County Auditor Debra French, auditors from the State Comptroller’s Office have been working for more than a year to untangle a series of complicated transactions disc

overed in 2015, that proved that Caldwell County had not remitted certain fees to the State as they were expected.

“Part of the problem we’ve found and that we’re addressing is the fact that the fees are coded differently from different offices,” she said. “Sometimes, it wasn’t clear which fees were supposed to be remitted to the State and which weren’t.”

Already, Caldwell County has paid upwards of $200,000 to rectify the problems, but French warned the Commissioners that as much as $350,000 more could be needed.

Evidently, fees collected by the County Clerk, District Clerk and the Justice of the Peace Offices have been audited over the course of the last year to determine which collected fees were revenue for the County, and which should have been passed along to the State. In some cases, French said, issues arose when County employees did not understand which fees should be applied to which entity. Others, she said, simply were not collected at all. Still others were coded differently from office to office, creating a gridlock once the reports arrived at the Treasurer’s Office.

“I’m not going to say that there weren’t errors on my part,” County Treasurer Lori Rangel said. “But the root of the problem is communication. The different offices code the fees differently, and sometimes those codes don’t include the state fees. We’re working toward getting everyone on the same page.”

French and Rangel said the District and County Clerks’ offices use one software system, while the justices use another, and different codes within those different systems caused certain remittances to be overlooked. They plan, in the near future, to work with those department heads and their software vendors to align the systems and add the statutory requirements to each code, so it is clear which money should be paid to the State, and which will remain in the County.

“It’s a matter of documentation,” French said. “Ideally, we want to be able to hand our documentation to the State when the auditors come in and say, ‘here’s a list of our barbecue restaurants, go enjoy your lunch,’ instead of then having to come back for a year.”

French expects the State audit will be completed within the next several weeks, and cautioned the Commissioners that a large payment could be requested as early as October.

In other business, with little fanfare and almost no additional discussion, the Commissioners unanimously approved the Fiscal Year 2016-17 budget, and a tax rate of $0.7753 per $100 of valuation for the coming tax year.

The budget has been a large point of discussion and contention over the last several weeks. However, the Court seems to have come to grips with their concerns, as none of the five offered additional commentary or question prior to Monday morning’s vote.

They heard a recommendation from the Human Resources Director Daniel Fowler for a candidate, Donald Leclerc, to fill the position of Unit Road Administrator. Longtime administrator Dwight Jeffrey last month announced his intention to retire at the end of September.

Though the candidates were screened by a committee, including Commissioners Neto Madrigal and Eddie Moses, along with Judge Kenneth Schawe, Commissioner Joe Roland said he was not comfortable approving the recommendation until he had the opportunity to meet with both of the final candidates for the position.

That meeting will be scheduled, and an announcement should be made during the Commissioners’ next regular meeting.

In brief news:

The Commissioners opened bids for aggregate, asphalt, flex-base, fuel, oil and lubricants for the coming budget year. The bids must be opened publicly, and recommendations for the contracts will be discussed at a later date.

The Court approved a cursory request from Juvenile Probation chief Jay Monkerud for County Funding in the amount of $501,465 for the Juvenile Probation Department in the coming fiscal year.

They approved an extended warranty for a piece of failing computer server equipment.

The County paid bills in the amount of $436,946.

The Caldwell County Commissioners Court routinely meets on the second and fourth Monday of each month at 9 a.m. in the second floor courtroom of the historic Caldwell County Courthouse. The meetings are open to the public and are webcast at www.co.caldwell.tx.us.

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