County finances in good shape

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The findings of an audit of Monroe County’s finances were discussed at a special meeting of the Board of Commissioners Thursday morning.

Certified Public Accountants from Fick, Eggemeyer & Williamson of Columbia presented the findings of their audit for Monroe County Fiscal Year 2018.

Positive findings from the audit included the overall state of the county’s finances, revenue from Oak Hill Senior Living and Rehabilitation Center and the collection of taxes.

“The overall financial picture of the county is good as our net financial position increased over the previous fiscal year. We continue to meet our financial obligations and pay down debt,” Monroe County Treasurer Kevin Koenigstein said in summation of the auditors’ report. 

“The IMRF pension plan is fully funded and continues to be fully funded on a market based valuation,” he continued.

The auditors also said Oak Hill’s revenue was “good news,” as it increased 10 percent from the previous year.

Monroe County Commissioner Vicki Koerber speculated that while the revenue growth from the facility is encouraging, she believes future revenue might be hampered by minimum wage increases in Illinois.

Auditors also praised the 99.82 percent tax collection rate of Monroe County for tax year 2017.

“We cover 22 municipalities in Missouri and Illinois, and this is one of the highest collection rates we’ve seen,” auditor Keith Slusser said.

The auditors did find some issues with a few of the county’s practices involving invoice approval  and accrued sick time.

The major concern for the auditors was a “segregation of duties weakness”  that resulted in a lack of oversight.

After the meeting, Koenigstein reported that “per the auditors’ advice and recommendations, we are trying to segregate duties within the county clerk’s and county treasurer’s offices. In the future, all checks will be originated out of the county clerk’s office. In the treasurer’s office, different individuals will be responsible for opening the mail, receipting deposits, making deposits and bank reconciliations.” 

Koenigstein added that segregation of duties might prove difficult during the busy season of real estate tax collection due to the small number of staff in his office.

The auditors also called for stricter approval of invoices within all departments and by the county commissioners.

“We need individual invoices to be approved rather than just (approving) spreadsheet pay reports,” auditors said.

Monroe County Clerk and Recorder Jonathan McLean showed auditors an example of his office’s practice of attaching separate approval slips to checks and invoices to ensure multiple personnel are aware of each transaction. 

Auditors were in favor of a similar approach throughout county departments.

Koerber suggested that employees be held accountable for unapproved invoice payments or lack of receipts for credit card purchases using county accounts.

Monroe County Commissioner Chairman Bob Elmore agreed with the sentiment and expanded his thoughts to employee payroll approval. 

“Right now when (the board) approves payroll, it’s already shoved out the door,” he said.

Auditors also recommended the commissioners consider taking a more hands-on role in approving individual invoices as an added layer of accountability. 

McLean and others discussed the available lines of credit for the county. McLean suggested the county look into consolidating accounts as a fraud-prevention and accountability measure. Monroe County State’s Attorney Chris Hitzemann added there may be further financial benefit in using fewer credit accounts, such as improved interest rates and other incentives.

Another area of concern discussed was the lack of uniform reporting of employee sick and vacation time.

“Sick time is not being reported in a timely manner,” auditor Shawn Williamson said, adding that having unaccounted sick time on the books leads to inaccurate reporting of financial liability.

For FY18, some departments were providing quarterly reports while others reconciled leave each pay period.

McLean addressed the situation during the meeting. 

“Not all of the departments were using ADP” payroll software to keep track of sick time and vacation during FY18, he explained.   

Several changes have already been enacted since the FY18 time frame. 

Payroll software was changed from ADP to Paycom as of Dec. 1, 2019. 

“It is the same service but has a few more features we did not have with ADP,” McLean explained. 

He added that payroll is now handled by the county’s human resource department and not the county clerk’s office.

McLean also addressed the sick time issue. 

“Like our auditors said in the meeting, we need to reconcile vacation and sick time every pay period. It is my understanding that (all) departments are now reconciling on a per pay period basis and it should not be a problem going forward,” he said.

The State of Illinois’ Grant Accountability and Transparency Act was also briefly spoken of as a potential accounting issue. 

GATA requires additional levels of reporting for any grant issued in the state. As a newer initiative, auditors mentioned the program as something for the county to be mindful of as the state enacts further regulation of grants.

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