By MARINA WATERS
The 2018 audit for Washington County is complete and includes six findings from the year.
Three of those findings were from the county mayor and director of accounts and budgets, one was from the clerk and master, one was from the director of schools and one was from the sheriff’s office.
Though the county tallied multiple findings, the number of audit findings decreased from 25 to six between last year’s audit and the most recent from the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office, with last year being the first time the state had completed the county’s audit. Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy said there was still a bit of a learning curve one year after using state auditors but that he felt the financial state of the county is in the right place.
“I think it’s really good. Really some of the things that were on there this year have already been addressed and resolved,” Grandy said. “It’s not perfect but I feel like we’re definitely making progress and trying to understand some of the different interpretations that the auditors have that vary from the auditing firm that had done the audit for the county for 50 years.”
Three of 2018’s findings occurred in the office of the county mayor. The audit lists accounting records that failed to match the chart of accounts, a lack of authorization of budget operations and purchasing deficiencies as the three findings for the mayor’s office. Mostly, the audit seemed to circle around issues that carried over from the 2017 audit to the 2018 audit.
The audit reported that the per record estimated beginning fund balance reflected in the general capital projects fund was $8,077,362 less than that of the estimated beginning fund balance. The county mayor’s office response to the finding as listed in the audit said the mismatched figures “were recorded because the county completed a bond issue in June of 2017 but did not record the obligation for education debt sharing with Johnson City,” which was paid in fiscal year 2018.
The deficiencies in budget operations included $3,420,000 that was set aside for the excavation work for the athletic fields at Boones Creek. The funds were included in the original budget approved by the county commission, but the appropriation was not posted to accounting records since it was “reportedly an amount that had been included in the prior year’s budget,” the audit said.
“We just didn’t want to end up showing $3.4 million appropriated twice, once in 2017, once in 2018,” the county’s director of finance and administration, Mitch Meredith, told the Herald & Tribune. “That’s why we did not post that although it was in the budget.”
As for the county’s purchasing deficiencies, $369,638 from the general capital projects fund for education projects tops the list as the largest amount. Meredith said the amount, which is for architectural fees for the Jonesborough School project’s architect, was not booked because the commission had planned to pay it in phases as the commission approved those next steps in the project.
“Our position was that we weren’t going to extend those dollars until the commission authorized that next step,” Meredith said. “We didn’t book the whole architectural contract. We were going to book it in phases, but the comptroller thinks that it needs to be encumbered in total.”
So far the commission has paid 15 percent of the fees. Meredith added that should the Washington County Board of Education want to continue the next phases for the project, the board would have to bring that before the county commission.
“If the board of education moves to phase two of the architectural services contract,” Meredith said, “they don’t have any money for it until they come back to the commission and say ‘we want to go to the next step.’ And that’s the way it was intended from day one. Once they decide where to go, then the commission’s going to have to come up with and appropriate some dollars to finish out that architectural services contract.”
Come next year, Meredith said he believes it’s likely that the county could have zero audit findings and that the findings listed in the report have been or are currently being addressed.
“The county’s finances are being well manage, well handled, there’s not any errors or irregularities. I think that’s important to point out.”
To view the county’s full audit report, go to https://apps.cot.tn.gov/repository/CA/2018/FY18WashingtonAFR.pdf.