Auditor gives Alcona high marks for finances

HARRISVILLE – The Alcona County Board of Commissioners got a high marks from its auditor Wednesday for staying within its multi-million dollar budget and keeping its records well organized.

Auditor Ken Talsma, a principal with Anderson, Tackman & Co. of Kincheloe, put the 2012 general fund financials under his microscope and looked for accuracy and clarity. He also looked for red ink, but found the commissioners kept their expenditures $6,600 under budget for the fiscal year that ended Dec. 31.

“Expenditures for all departments stayed well below budget, so you’re controlling expenses until the economy gets better,” Talsma said.

At their meetings, the commissioners have been careful about spending requests, often searching for alternatives.

“We get chewed on a lot, because there is no money,” Chairman Kevin Boyat said during the meeting.

At the same time, the board has been successful at obtaining money from other sources. In February, it won the right to be fiduciary agent for a series of multi-million dollar Homeland Security grant funds. In return it will receive fees for their work as well as money for public safety improvement projects.

Talsma’s audit also checked to make sure there was no mishandling of funds and the county was complying with state and federal laws.

Talsma said the audit process went smoothly between his office and the treasurer’s office, even though county Treasurer Cheryl Franks is relatively new to the post. In other communities, changes in leadership can result in a huge headache when documents become disorganized or have been destroyed, he said.

As part of his presentation, Talsma provided the commissioners with a nine-page printout of charts that compared the 2011 general fund audit with audited figures for 2012. A two-year analysis showed that property tax revenues dropped only slightly, from $3,209,349 in 2011 to $3,208,117 in 2012. A bulk of the county’s program revenues – about 60 percent – came from taxes. Other revenue comes from federal and state government, service charges, permits, fines and other sources.

The general fund expenditures totalled around $4.3 million, with public safety as the biggest expense. In 2011, $1.91 million was spent on law enforcement, the jail and other expenses. In 2012, that increased slightly to $1.97 million, the audit showed.

The audit has been a critical issue for the commissioners after former county treasurer Thomas Katona pleaded guilty in 2007 to embezzling more than $1.2 million in funds. The commissioners later sued the auditor watching over the county’s books at that time in hopes of recovering some of the money.

“I was happy with the audit report,” Boyat said later. “We’re heading in the right direction.”