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Auditor issues plea for help with final reports
BY VALERIE REDDELL
LIVINGSTON – During the departmental reports portion of Tuesday's session of Commissioner's Court, County Auditor Ray Stelly issued a plea to the Commissioners to use whatever influence they had with District Clerk Kathy Clifton to provide the remaining information needed by the outside auditors Belt, Harris Pechacek LLC to complete the 2012 audit of Polk County. "I sent a letter yesterday to the district judges and Commissioners Court that I would like to read," Stelly said. "I have been informed by our outside CPA unless they receive the following documents within days they will have no choice but to issue a qualified opinion regarding the 2012 audit of Polk County: 1.A full reconciliation of all bank accounts associated with the Registry of the Court funds as of Sept. 30, 2012; 2. A status report showing the difference between balances according to bank accounts described in number one above and the associated balance of the same account per the Registry of the Court Status Report as recorded in the Net Data System." "Of course when we start working on our outside audit, the goal is to get an unqualified opinion, which we have since I've been here," Stelly said. "The good thing about that is it makes our bond rating much better. A qualified opinion would wreak havoc on our bond rating. I'm asking for any court member who can assist me to speak to Ms. Clifton and encourage to complete this assignment the cpa firm has given her within the time they point out. It is essential that gets done so we don't have a qualified opinion. I'm going to do everything I can to see if I can push the process forward. My understanding is she's got these reconciliations through June or through … halfway through the year, through March. If I have to, I will see if I can get my staff to help her. But it's a very serious issue. Anything you can do to help encourage her I would appreciate it. The issue was brought up in the 2011 County audit and Belt, Harris Pechacek wrote in a management letter dated March 12, 2012 that the District Clerk's office has $4.1 million in agency funds held in trust in various bank accounts that were not reconciled during the year. "In addition it appears the District Clerk's office lacks a process or system of consistently documenting distribution of funds," the management letter said. "There is an unreconciled difference of $47,055 which either indicates missing funds or simply an accounting error. The lack of a process and system for accounting and distributing monies including reconciliation of bank accounts of court records." The independent auditors recommended then that the district clerk's office should begin reconciling bank statements monthly and develop a process of consistently documenting disbursements. They documented that the District Clerk's office concurred with this recommendation when the 2011 audit report was presented to Commissioner's Court. Since the issue was not listed on Tuesday's agenda as an action item, commissioners could not discuss or take any action on the issue during the meeting. Petition for Local Option Liquor Election Commissioners received a petition for a local option election in Justice of the Peace Precinct 2 for the sale of alcoholic beverages for off-premises consumption. County Tax Assessor-Collector Leslie Burks said the petition was presented to County Clerk Schelana Walker and Burks' office verified that the petition did contain enough qualifying signatures to hold a liquor election in Precinct 2 on May 11. Currently, alcoholic beverages are sold within the Onalaska city limits. The election will be to determine the will of the voters about expanding the sale of "hard liquor" to all of Precinct 2. Pct. 1 Commissioner Bob Willis made the motion to receive the petition and call for the election and the motion passed unanimously. Probation Dept. moving Commissioners approved a plan to relocate the Community Supervision and Corrections Department (Adult Probation) from the basement of the Courthouse to the Dunbar Complex. County Maintenance Supervisor Jay Burks hopes to have the move completed by March 21-22. Burks said the probation department has had issues with water leaks and now with construction planned to relocate the elevator, further disruption to their department will occur. "By relocating them to Dunbar, that will give the contractor more free reign to get the work done," Burks said. Burks told commissioners he expects the unbudgeted costs for this year to be about $25,000, which can come out of the Maintenance budget. Many of the repairs to the Dunbar Building have been done by probation workers to earn community service hours. "That's about $20,000 worth of repairs that have been done in a good faith effort," Burks said. The county could also save about $700 off of the current telephone bill in the courthouse by moving telephone lines over to the Dunbar complex. Adult probation will purchase a security system that will be installed at Dunbar and pay the monthly monitoring fee, but if they move out of the facility they will take the security equipment with them, Burks said. Teresa Milner, Director of Adult Probation told commissioners that 15 employees are working in the basement now. "We have had to deal with four water leaks this year. That has forced us to share offices sometimes — which we are not supposed to do." "Will you be able to hold classes at night that you are having at the courthouse now?" Commissioner Overstreet asked. "There are safety concerns after five o'clock," Milner said. PCAD building expansion Commissioners tabled a request from the Polk Central Appraisal District Board of Directors asking for written objections or recommendations to PCAD retaining the remaining $265,000 from 2012 budget funds for expansion of the district office on Matthews Street in Livingston. County Judge John Thompson said Chief Appraiser Chad Hill had talked to him about the plan. "It seems to make sense. Rather than build a new building, they want to add on," Thompson said. After none of the commissioners made a motion, Thompson offered a motion to approve the CAD's request, but it died for lack of a second. Pct. 4 Commissioner Tommy Overstreet made a motion to table the item, asking to see plans for the expansion or information on how much the district planned to spend on the office expansion. The motion to table passed unanimously. Commissioners voted unanimously to pass a resolution opposing HB 958 which would reduce the interest crediting rate for the Texas County and District Retirement System from 7 percent to 5 percent, resulting in a negative impact for retiree benefits. Personnel issues Commissioners approved a change in policy that waives the 90-day waiting period for individuals returning to full-time employment following a qualified break in service as a retiree with retiree health insurance benefits. Commissioners discussed changes in policy for "extra hours" worked by exempt employees. Current policy allows exempt, salaried employees to account for hours worked beyond 80 hours in a two-week period and gives elected officials discretion in allowing those professional staff members compensatory time off after they have exhausted vacation, holidays and personal time. Following discussion about whether these exempt employees would have to exhaust sick leave before being allowed to use these hours, Overstreet made a motion to revise the policy only to address the two main concerns: that exempt employees would not be compensated for those accrued hours if they left their position with the county. Many of the non-exempt employees affected have reached the maximum of 240 hours that can be carried over. The motion by Overstreeet was seconded by Ronnie Vincent as was passed with Willis voting no. The court deleted an agenda item considering the appointment of a county fire marshalafter a closed executive session. Eagle Scouts recognized The court passed two resolutions recognizing Taylor Jefferson Waits and Darren Jacob Cox for attaining the rank of Eagle Scout. County Judge John Thompson also asked the two young men to lead the pledge of allegiance to the U.S. and Texas flags at the opening of the meeting. Consent agenda • Approve budget amendments as presented by the County Auditor and submitted and reviewed by court appointed committee. • Approve schedule of bills. • Approve personnel action forms. • Approve listing of previously authorized capital purchases to be included on reimbursement resolution. • Approve offers to purchase tax foreclosed properties: (Pct. 3) Tract 40, G. P. Dikes Survey, Cause No. T-05, 457. • Approve interlocal agreements between Polk County and the cities of Livingston and Onalaska individually for the county's provision of election equipment and services for the May 11 city election. • Approve request of Polk County Historical Commission for appointment of Kelly Shadix to fill vacant position on the local board. • Approve proclamation designating April 2013 as Fair Housing month in Polk County • Approve County Auditor's request for capital purchase of four printers and toner cartridges totaling $1,588.24 as adopted in the capital purchase projections of the FY 2013 budget to be paid from general fund balance and included in the reimbursement resolution for year issuance of legally authorized debt (tax notes). • Approve order declaring surplus property. • Approve certificate of construction completion for the Ike disaster recovery grant No. 010146 "Standby Generators". • Approve updated to personnel policy regarding merit increases as authorized in court action taken Feb. 12, 2013.