County panel considers audit response

By HEATHER NELLIS

heather.nellis@recordernews.com

FONDA — The Montgomery County Board of Supervisors Finance Committee on Tuesday briefly discussed whether further action was warranted on the recent audit by state Comptroller’s Office.

The committee decided to let Treasurer Shawn Bowerman call the comptroller’s office to see if the response he submitted through board Chairman John Thayer was adequate.

Committee Chairman Dominick Stagliano said procedurally, the response Bowerman put together wasn’t necessary, and that the county was only required to respond by agreeing or disagreeing with the audit’s findings after receiving a draft in September.

Thereafter, officials could then take advantage of a 90-day window to craft a corrective action plan.

“They didn’t need to do that when they did,” Stagliano said. “But, since they did, does the board want to accept it as the corrective action plan?”

“I’ll check with the state if they want more detail. It was very generic,” Bowerman said.

Stagliano said if the state requires a more detailed response, the committee can craft a formal corrective action plan at its December meeting, and move it to the full board for its consideration.

In a report formally released in early October, auditors from the state Comptroller’s Office determined the Board of Supervisors hasn’t adopted realistic budgets that are structurally balanced the past three years.

The audit says the board relies on appropriating fund balance, a non-recurring revenue, to finance recurring expenditures, and the county incurred operating deficits in the last two of three years.

The board hasn’t publicly discussed the audit’s contents since receiving the draft.

The Finance Committee’s Sept. 17 meeting agenda included a scheduled discussion on the draft. Stagliano anticipated it would have been brief to give the supervisors a chance to agree or disagree.

The discussion never took place, however. The meeting was adjourned for a lack of a quorum.

Later that month, the comptroller’s office contacted Bowerman and warned the audit would be printed without a response from the county if one wasn’t received within several days.

Bowerman said he forwarded what he wrote to Thayer, who OK’d and signed it before it was returned to the comptroller’s office.

“I sent it under the gun to send a response,” Bowerman said Tuesday.

The response pushes responsibility for corrective action onto the new form of government that will be seated in January.

In its recommendations included with the audit, the state says the board should establish written policies and procedures governing the budget process.

The county’s response said the board will pursue that by reviewing the resolution that pertains to fund balance, and adjust it to establish the amount of fund balance the county should maintain.

“If these are not completed by the end of the year, the county executive will be advised” of the state’s recommendations, the county’s response reads.

A similar response was detailed in the county’s response to calls for the development of multi-year financial plans: “[It] will be an undertaking of the county executive and the legislature when the new form of government takes over next year.”

The response pledges to adopt budgets that include revenues and expenditures that are realistically estimated, but “this tends to be difficult with differing personalities and political pressures.”

Budget development for the upcoming 2014 plan has been limited to the Finance Committee’s two-week review in October, when it crafted its formal recommendation submitted to the full board.

Officials said there is a special meeting scheduled on the budget early next month.