Avoyelles Police Jury pleased with ‘no-negatives’ audit

Usually when financial figures are discussed, the Avoyelles Police Jury is a sea of “frowny faces.”

Police Jury President Charles Jones was all smiles about the recent audit report for the 2018 budget year -- not so much for what is in the report, but for what isn’t.

“The auditor told me this is one of the best audits the jury has had,” Jones said.

The audit report was presented to jurors at the July 3 committee meeting by the accounting firm of Kolder, Slaven & Company. The jury adopted the report at this past Tuesday’s jury meeting.

In summary, there were no problems found with the parish finances. There were a few technical “internal control” issues. The jury showed progress in addressing past findings.

In other words, if you can’t get a really positive financial report, make the best of a “no-negatives’ one.

HUD DOCUMENTATION

The auditor reported there was inadequate documentation to support the eligibility of four of 17 Section 8 tenants in the HUD program.

The auditor recommended the jury “implement and enforce adequate internal controls over record retentions and conduct a periodic review of the tenant files to ensure that proper documentation is being retained.”

In its response, the Police Jury said HUD has been contacted for guidance on addressing the missing documentation in the four tenants in the auditor’s sample group.

“We will continue to monitor compliance for tenant eligibility according to the program requirements and attempt to identify any additional individuals who are missing original documentation,” the jury said in its written response.

There were two findings that are reported on almost every local government audit.

One is for “inadequate segregation of accounting functions.”

Auditors routinely tell the governing bodies that such segregation of duties is not economically feasible for small local governments and should not be considered a problem.

The auditors must note the finding and request the government’s response.

In the jury’s response to the finding, Jones said it is not cost-effective to hire more clerical staff to attain full segregation of duties.

The other recurring finding was that the jury does not have in-house staff to handle financial transactions and prepare financial statements in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles.

Jones’ response was that it is best for the jury to outsource this task to independent auditors and to carefully review draft financial statements and notes prior to approving them. He said the jury accepts responsibility for the statements’ contents and presentation. This is also a frequent finding on local audits.

PAST FINDINGS

The audit reflected the Police Jury addressed a 2017 audit finding by adopting a capital improvement program as required by state law.

The good news included no finding of non-compliance in the budgeting process and bid law, which has been a problem in the past.

For example, the 2017 budgets for the General Fund, Health Unit Fund and Library Fund were all 5 percent off from the actual year-end results, in violation of the budgeting requirements.

There was no such finding this year.

In 2017, the auditor found the jury had purchased $100,000 of crushed concrete without advertising for and accepting bids, in violation of state law.

There was no recurrence of such an issue in 2018.

FIVE-YEAR FIGURES

An interesting feature of the report was a five-year comparison of income/expenditures and the source of the jury’s income.

For “Total Government Revenue,” the report showed income rose from $10,067,601 in 2014 to $11,430,597 in 2018.

There was a spike in 2015 to $11,182,653 that fell to $10,897,419 in 2016 and rose again to $11,253,719 in 2017.

Expenses followed that same pattern, rising from $8,978,839 in 2014 to $11,005,069 in 2018.

Costs were $10,281,652 in 2015, $9,633,080 in 2016 and $9,761,348 in 2017.

The Police Jury has been doing a good job of gradually building up reserves in its various operating funds.

It must be noted that many of the reserve funds are dedicated to specific costs and cannot be “loaned” to the jury’s core needs of General Fund, Road & Bridge, Drainage and Solid Waste.

The goal is to have enough reserve to keep the government operating for several months in the event there is a catastrophic loss of income.

In past financial reports, it has been noted that the Police Jury’s reserve is still not where it should be, but does put this parish in better financial position than some parishes.

The Total Government Fund Balance has improved from $11,207,670 in 2014 to $16,651,639 in 2018.

Sales taxes provided $4,528,828 in 2014. That declined slightly to $4,526,804 in 2018.

Property taxes increased from $1,956,172 to $3,123,931. A large part of that increase is due to a 30-mill property tax approved in Road District 2, which includes four east Avoyelles wards.

Public Works took 57 percent of the expenditures in 2014 and 59 percent in 2018 -- probably also due in part to more road projects funded in Road District 2.

General Government’s share of the expenditures dropped slightly, from 17 percent in 2014 to 16 percent in 2018.

Public Safety received 7 percent of the budget in 2014 and 5 percent in 2018.

Health & Welfare stayed at 9 percent and Culture & Recreation remained at 7 percent of the costs.

“Other” costs were 3 percent in 2014 and 4 percent in 2018.

AVOYELLES JOURNAL
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