Auditors say county finances are 'sound' but list areas for improvement

December 15, 1993|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff Writer

Carroll County is in good financial shape, but officials need to improve in five areas, including collection of delinquent property taxes, two auditors said yesterday.

The Wooden & Benson certified public accountant firm of Baltimore explained its audit of the county's fiscal 1993 books to the commissioners at a staff meeting.

The annual audit is required by state law. The 1993 fiscal year ended June 30.

"You're in sound financial condition," accountant Karl H. Silex said.

Local income tax revenues were 5.2 percent higher in 1993 than 1992, increasing to $36.6 million from $34.7 million.

The assessed valuation of county properties increased 11.1 percent, to $2.6 billion from $2.4 billion.

Accountant Rosemary Krus noted five areas in which the county could improve its accounting practices:

* Continuing efforts to collect delinquent taxes. Taxpayers owed the county $1.3 million as of June 30, the audit indicated. Most of the taxes owed are property taxes, Ms. Krus said.

* Adding more control over cash deposits. Some county accounting employees who make entries in the general ledger also make cash deposits at the bank, Ms. Krus said. County policy calls for an employee from the collections department to make the deposits.

* Upgrading computer systems for financial reports to allow more information to be generated for analysis. An upgrade has been needed since the late 1980s, Ms. Krus said. Carroll Comptroller Eugene C. Curfman said money will be available for the computer upgrades in January or February.

* Improving the system for disposing of county assets. Sales of some assets, such as computers and typewriters, have not been properly recorded, Ms. Krus said, and some items that were sold at auctions several years ago were still on the county's books. Ms. Krus said she did not find any improprieties but that a central office should coordinate the system.

* Updating a computerized ledger for construction projects.

Mr. Silex also said that a new Government Accounting Standards Board requirement for 1994, which involves landfills, will affect Carroll County.

The new rule says that local governments must spread the cost of closing and maintaining a landfill over the life of the landfill.

Carroll officials have not been doing that, Mr. Silex said, noting that when Carroll closes the Hoods Mill Landfill next year, all of the closing costs will be shown as debt and expenses in fiscal 1995.

The county paid Wooden & Benson $42,000 for the fiscal 1993 audit. In 1992, the company won a three-year, $126,000 contract to perform county audits.

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