Given what happened at the Columbia County Tax Commissioner’s office, you can bet everyone over at the Government Center is paying a lot more attention these days to the audit results that cross their desks.
Audits are supposed to be a combination of preventative medicine and deterrence. They can spot a minor problem before it becomes a serious one, and the very fact that they occur helps keep everyone in line.
Last Tuesday, commissioners received a regularly scheduled report from Rick Evans of Serotta, Maddocks Evans, the county’s auditing firm, regarding five separate county departments: Alcohol Licensing and Occupational Tax, Fire Services, Lodging Tax, Magistrate Court and the Recreation Department.
Most found only minor problems, mainly involving procedural issues or an occasional lack of written evidence of departmental review.
The Fire Department, for example, didn’t have a safe to keep the cash raised during their boot drives. Though they are diligent about depositing the funds, a safe was recommended by the auditors for limiting opportunities for problems.
The Recreation Department didn’t fare quite as well, however. Though no major problems were uncovered, Evans noted the audit did find some situations at the Bobby Waters Gymnasium, where sign-in sheets were missing or where they didn’t agree with the totals collected, something he noted was a recurring finding.
To eliminate the sign-in issues, management is currently considering doing away with the daily fee and coming up with seasonal passes. Fewer transactions, fewer opportunities for problems.
Auditors also found some policy compliance issues with some of the rental contracts.
Perhaps in response, Community and Leisure Services Director Barry Smith later went before the Community and Emergency Services Committee with a series of fee schedule changes, including changing the current six and 12-hour ball field rentals to an hourly rate and introducing a weekly fee for entrance into Wildwood Park.
“We have a daily fee and a yearly pass, but we feel maybe if we have a weekly fee we’ll sell more,” Smith said.
Three years ago, Smith recommended lowering the annual fee at Wildwood from $75 to $35 and within the first four or five months they sold approximately $40,000 worth of passes.
The weekly passes would cost $15. Other changes include a separate fee for groups of 30 or more in the primitive camping area and charging for the overflow parking area adjacent to the main lot.
Whether the changes will help resolve issues or simply add confusion seemed to be on the mind of committee chairman Trey Allen, who questioned what he characterized as two pages worth of fees.
“I understand these practices work in other parts of the state, and I’m all for giving options,” he said. “But let’s not overcomplicate things too much.”
For a department already finding it difficult to handle transactions with the public, adding options might not be the best way to help employees succeed.