Village Official: Fire Department Books ‘in good shape’

Courtesy of The Marion Star (Jessica Cuffman)

WALDO – Five months after the state said a fire department in this county didn’t have enough records to complete one yearly audit, progress has been made toward getting the books back in order.  The state auditor’s office released audits for 2008 and 2009 for Fort Morrow Consolidated Fire District this week.

In August, the state said parts of three sets of information were missing.  Accurate and complete bank reconciliations, year-end financial statements and complete accounting record ledgers for those two years were needed before audits could be completed.  According to the audits released this week, one of the 12 problems noted in 2008 was resolved before 2009.  Anther citation was found in 2009, the most recent year audited.

Plans are in place to address the rest, said Rex Henry, Fort Morrow board chairman.  He expects the next audit will be back on track.  “We’ll be in good shape for 2010.  I think we’ll be back to normal,” he said.

The audits, completed by Holbrook & Manter, noted four material weaknesses in the bookkeeping practices from 2008 and 2009.  It also noted seven noncompliance citations.  Material weaknesses are practices that could affect the financial condition of an entity seriously enough to call into question its integrity, said Kevin Holtsberry, a policy and public affairs analyst for the state auditor’s office.

Citations are practices that deviate from standard accounting procedures, he said.  One such common citation is when deposits are not made in a timely manner, which according to standards is one business day, he said.  That was one of the citations Holbrook & Manter noted for Fort Morrow’s books in 2008 and 2009. 

The citations included funds not being certified properly before they were spent, annual reports not being filed with the state auditor, appropriations exceeding total estimated revenues, not having a public records policy or records retention policy in place, not having individuals who handle cash for the district bonded, signatures missing from board minutes and others.  A common material weakness for other entities would be not maintaining voided checks, Holtsberry said.

That also was one of Fort Morrow’s identified weaknesses.  The others were missing invoices for a few expenditures, incomplete monthly bank statement reconciliations, and not reviewing numerical check sequences before signing them.  There were no findings for recovery, however, which would indicate money that needed to be repaid, Holtsberry said.  “There was no fraud,” Henry said.

When learning the department was unauditable last year, with a pending levy, Henry wasn’t sure how the public would react.  “We figured we’d have more questions and more people that didn’t support it.  But it went all right,” he said.  Moving forward from the audits will be a big relief for everyone on the fire board and the department, he said.

He said his current clerk, Lisa Hoback, who was the third clerk in a span of three years, has been doing a good job.  “She had her work cut out for her,” he said.  With a lot of help from Jill Corwin, an accountant at Holbrook & Manter, they were able to complete the task, he said.

“We’re going to keep a closer watch on it than we did before.  We never had any problems for years and years.  But we weren’t keeping a close enough eye on it,” he said.  “It could have been worse.”