Commission working to resolve audit findings
Published 3:21 pm Friday, March 21, 2014
By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal
The Lowndes County Commission is no longer using capital improvement funds to pay principal and interest on bonds issued for the purchase of the Hayneville Plaza and is working to eliminate the deficit fund balance in its General Fund.
That was the response from Lowndes County Commission Chairman Robert Harris to findings in an Alabama Department of Examiners of Public Accounts audit of the Lowndes County Commission from Oct. 1, 2011 through Sept. 30, 2012.
The audit was released by the state on Friday.
According to the audit, unresolved prior findings were from 2011-01, the commission using certain restricted funds for an unallowable purpose and from 2009-03, the commission having a deficit fund balance in the General Fund.
Finding 2011-01 states, “The Commission issued $3.53 million in General Obligation Warrants, Series 2011 for the purchase of an existing building. The Commission used a portion of the capital improvement funds provided for in the Code of Alabama 1975, Section 1I-29-6, to pay principal and interest on these Series 20II warrants during the fiscal year.
“The Code of Alabama I975, Section II-296, does not allow for the purchase of an existing building or for the payment of debt issued for such purpose with capital improvement funds.”
Lowndes County Commission Administrator Jacquelyn J. Thomas confirmed that the payment of dept related to the purchase of the Hayneville Plaza.
According to information released by the state, Harris responded to the findings in writing, “We were unaware that we could not use these funds to pay the principal and interest on the purchase of an existing building. We were informed by the auditor when she finished the 2011 audit in 2013 and as stated in the 2011 audit, we will make sure that this does not happen again.”
When asked how the findings on the bond payments affect the commission’s current budget, Thomas said, it has no affect. She said in the current budget the payments are “not” coming from the capital improvement fund.
According to finding No. 2009-03, “At September 30, 2012, the Commission had a deficit fund balance in the amount of $95,670.63 in the General Fund.”
Again according to the information released by the state, Harris responded to the audit in writing, “The deficit fund balance has greatly reduced since the last fiscal year, and we are working toward removing the deficit altogether.”
Thomas said, “As of matter of fact, in 2011, we had a deficit. We’ve had a deficit for a number of years.”
But, she said, “The deficit has decreased.” She said there was a larger deficit in 2011, less in 2012, “And I expect for it to be less than that for 2013. And by 2014, I’m hoping that we will not have a deficit.”
According to the audit information released Friday, invited to an exit conference were Thomas and Lowndes County Commissioners of that time Charlie King Jr., Harris, Marzett Thomas, Joseph Barganier and W. Dickson Farrior.
Those who attended the conference were Harris, Barganier, Farrior and Thomas.
King contacted The Lowndes Signal and stated that he was not invited to the exit conference.