The Cherokee County Commission recently received the official audit report for the fiscal year October 1, 2019 – September 30, 2020.
Contained within that report were two findings by the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts.
On Friday afternoon we sat down with Cherokee County Probate Judge and Commission Chairman Tim Burgess and he explained in detail what the findings mean. Burgess explained that the findings deal specifically with the jail deficit and have been on the audit reports since 2011. It is important to note that these findings are not an implication of wrongdoing on anyone’s part.
The first finding relates to the general fund borrowing from restricted funds. This finding was reported previously in 2019, 2018, 2017 & 2012.
Judge Burgess explained that no actual money was moved. Accounting adjustments were made during the preparation of financial statements to remove a cash deficit from the general fund. Generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) require all funds to have positive cash balances at the end of the fiscal year.
Burgess said that beginning in 2008 the Cherokee County Detention center began to lose a number of Federal Inmates which was a major source of income at the time. Burgess said that the loss equated to around $350,000 – $400,000 annually which left a deficit in the budget that had to be filled. Burgess said that at one point the deficit had grown to almost two million dollars.
“Simply put”, Burgess said, “the jail was costing more to operate than the funds the county had available to operate it.”
The state says that restricted funds should not be used to offset the deficit of the general fund. Burgess said that the only options for the county was to redirect funds, raise tax rates or decrease services. The Commission chose to reduce the deficit over time and not raise taxes or reduce services. The county has taken steps to supplement and distribute funds from other sources to offset the jail deficit.
The second finding is related to the first finding. It relates to the Commission’s failure to ensure funds are available before payments are made from the general fund. This finding was previously reported in 2019, 2018, 2017, & 2011.
Judge Burgess went on to tell us that, thankfully, Sheriff Shaver was able to restore the housing of Federal Inmates in the detention center which amounts to around $300,000 annually. He also said it appears there is some great news on the horizon –
Burgess explained that all these findings are presented to the District Attorney’s Office –
Burgess ended our meeting by saying, “Except for the jail fund deficit findings, overall, the audit was good. I would like to express my appreciation to the Commission staff for their hard work in safeguarding the county’s funds.”
You can view the entire audit report below.22-072-Cherokee Commission