Winona County was given a clean audit report for 2011 finances from the state auditor’s office, and awarded an “unqualified opinion,” meaning no major deficiencies were found in its accounting standards.
Carla Blahnik, of the state auditor’s office, outlined some of the audit findings to the County Board on Tuesday. While the county audit did not raise any major red flags, said Blahnik, there were some areas identified as in need of improvement—including legal compliance for government projects contracted to private companies.
One of the recommendations in the audit report was no surprise for a government unit the size of Winona County. Internal control procedures and segregation of duties can be difficult for a county with a smaller number of employees, she said. Areas where small fees are collected, such as planning and zoning, reported Blahnik, should have more segregation of duties: those collecting fees should not also be those issuing receipts and performing other accounting tasks. Blahnik said it’s often not cost effective to have multiple staff members in an area like that, so the state has recommended the county monitor the situation and be aware of the need for segregated duties.
The audit report also examined several federal programs administered by the county, and noted issues with medical assistance, child support enforcement, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Blahnik reported that in these programs, problems were identified in applications and case files. Some files were missing records; some included conflicting information. Six TANF files identified did not include accurate family income data, and one file couldn’t be found, she said. The report recommended that improvements be made to ensure accurate and complete information is filed in these areas.
Blahnik also said there was a legal compliance issue with a contractor doing public county work. Contractors working under a government contract must provide a performance bond for jobs exceeding $75,000, she said, and competitive bids must be opened at a public meeting. A Garvin Heights tower reconstruction project, said Blahnik, did not appear to have a performance bond and bids had been opened in an employee’s office. Blahnik said the county should ensure its staff members are aware of the legal requirements.
Last five years: county spending, assets up
Blahnik handed out several charts that illustrated how the county has spent its funds over the last five years. Spending has increased from $37.1 million in 2006 to $43.8 million in 2011.
The property tax portion of the county's revenue decreased in 2011 and 2012 (about minus one percent in 2011 and minus four percent in 2012). The 2013 preliminary levy has been set at a zero percent increase.
Total revenues and expenditures over the last five years were listed as follows (revenue totals, with expenditure totals in parentheses): 2006 revenue $38.6 million ($37.1 million); 2007 revenue $39.8 million ($41.2 million); 2008 revenue $44.5 million ($45.4 million); 2009 revenue $42.4 million ($39.9 million); 2010 revenue $44.3 million ($45.6 million); and 2011 revenue $43.8 million ($44.5 million).
County net assets, including things such as buildings and roads, have also increased in recent years, climbing at least nine percent in 2010 and 2011. According to information presented by Blahnik during the meeting, the county’s total net assets were $78.4 million in 2006. By 2011 the figure had risen to $106.3 million.