By Britne Hammonds
Monitor Staff Writer
CANTON–Independent auditors warned the Van Zandt County Commissioners to clean up budget discrepencies or risk having to repay FEMA funds.
During the Oct. 11 meeting, auditor Kevin Cashion of Gollob, Morgan and Peddy, Inc. presented an 80-page audit for the county’s fiscal year 2015.
Cashion issued a warning to commissioners that certain procedures would have to change. Specifically, Cashion said adopting annual budgets that showed a continual deficit would have to stop. In addition, the practice of borrowing from different fund balance accounts would need to be changed.
During the lengthy presentation, Cashion touched on the actions of previous county auditors and also reminded the commissioners “this is the second year in a row that the commissioners have been cautioned for specific accounting practices.”
Cashion also pointed out problems in the treasurer’s office, including a failure to comply and being understaffed. Other major issues listed were: the county using FEMA funds while being deficit; and implementing the segregation of duties.
“Overall, as a county you are in a better position from a financial standpoint,” Cashion said. “Improvements had been made but there are a few things that still need to be done.”
Cashion and County Auditor Freddy Thomas emphasized to the commissioners that unauthorized borrowing of cash funds with restrictive purposes remains a problem in the county.
“All departments need to understand they need to operate within their approved budget. For example, in 2015, the main reason the county went over budget was due to $440,000 being spent on the jail that was not in the jail budget. “We have now used up all of our excess money and we are going into 2017 with no cash reserves,” Thomas said. “We are emphasizing to all county departments that the budget is set and we have tried to give all of the departments a fair budget. But, if they go over that budget, the county would be in trouble financially.”
Cashion added that recent accounting practices make it unclear just how much cash in is the bank. “It is misrepresentation of how much cash is actually in the bank, the way we have operated historically.”
“You are borrowing from other funds to pay bills. You can’t borrow from those restricted amount funds,” Cashion said.
He also advised commissioners to be “very, very careful,” with funds received from FEMA.
“We have got to be very, very careful about taking money from federal funds and using those funds for operations. The funds can be pulled out and put into a separate account. I suggest that you do that to avoid any opportunity for the state to say there is misallocation of funds. You do not want to have to pay the federal government back,” Cashion said. “Pull those funds out, put them into a separate account and do not run the risk of misappropriating those dollars.”
Cashion touched on the problems concerning the treasurer’s office.
“Your treasurer’s office has a lot of responsibilities. There are only two people in that office. The ball is getting dropped along the way,” Cashion said.
Cashion said he had talked with County Auditor Thomas concerning segregation of duties, specifically because the treasurer’s office handles human resources of the county. He strongly recommended a position be created for an HR representative.
Cashion summarized by saying deposits need to be made in a timely manner to comply with local government code and that the treasurer’s office is understaffed.
Cashion also suggested that segregation of duties of other county departments would also be necessary. “The (county) auditor may need to audit some departments monthly to see where things stand because, you must remain in the approved budget,” Cashion said.
County Judge Don Kirkpatrick thanked Cashion and Thomas on their work on the audit.
“We have fixed the auditor’s office and have made improvements. We do believe we have a balanced budget for 2017. The caution to all departments is that there is no money to come over here and get. Stay within your budget even if it will be tight and stressful. We are going to do the best we can,” Kirkpatrick said.
“The problems that were in the audit are now being addressed, and that is progress. That is where the county needs to continue to head. But, the problems aren’t going to be fixed overnight,” Cashion concluded.
Posted by : October 28, 2016| On :
By Britne Hammonds
Posted by : October 21, 2016| On :
Monitor Staff Reports
CEDAR CREEK LAKE–Early voting begins Monday, Oct. 24 and runs through Friday, Nov. 4 for the General Election to choose a president. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8.
Running on the Republican ticket is Donald J. Trump/Mike Pence and the Democratic ticket is Hillary Clinton/Tim Kaine. Also running are Libertarians Gary Johnson/William Weld and Green Party candidates Jill Stein/Ajamu Baraka.
United States Representative, Dist. 5 comes down to Republican Jeb Hensarling and Libertarian Ken Ashby.
No candidates from Kaufman County are on the ballot. However, there are two for Henderson County, including Kay Langford (R) and Daryl K. Graham (D) contending for Precinct 3 Constable. Also candidates for Precinct 3 Commissioner are Aleciah Joyce Sims (D) and Charles “Chuck” McHam (R).
The City of Coffee voters are choosing between John Graham and Pam Drost for Mayor.
Caney City has a bond election for $191,000 for structing and equipping a fire station.
Also on the ballot for some voters in Precincts 1 and 4 is The Henderson County Emergency Services District 11 special election proposition to confirm the creation of the Henderson County Emergency Services District 11 and the levy by the District of a tax not to exceed the rate allowed by the Section 48-e of the Texas Constitution.
School boards are also holding elections. In Brownsboro three seats are available with contenders Sean Ray, Cody Seale, Michele P. Rinehart and Steve Sanders.
Locally, Malakoff ISD Board of Trustees candidates are Peggy Dewberry, Stephen Burkhalter, Duana Busch, Michael Kent Monroe and Jerry Spiva. Voters may choose up to three of the candidates.
Crossroads ISD Board of Trustee candidates are Shelly Robertson, Darren Himes, William “Russell” Giles, Jr., Dustin Cook, Kevin Hazelip and Shane Stanfield. Voters may choose three candidates
State Board of Education, District 9 candidates are Keven M. Ellis (R), Democrat Amanda M. Rudolph and Libertarian Anastasia Wilford.
Other statewide races include Railroad Commissioner candidates Wayne Christian (R), Grady Yarbrough (D), Mark Miller (L) and Green Party candidate Martina Salinas.
There are several Justices of the Supreme Court elections. In the running for Place 3, are Debra Lehrmann (R), Mike Westergren (D), Kathie Glass (L), and Rodolfo Rivera Munoz (G). Place 5 candidates are Paul Green (R), Dori Contreras Garza (D), Tom Oxford (L) and Charles Waterbury (G). For Place 9, the candidates are Eva Guzman (R), Savannah Robinson (D), Don Fulton (L) and Jim Chisholm (G).
Court of Criminal Appeals Judge, Place 2 candidates are Mary Lou Keel (R), Lawrence “Larry” Meyers (D), Mark Ash (L) and Adam King Blackwell Reposa (G). Place 5 candidates are Scott Walker (R), Betsy Johnson (D), William Bryan Strange III (L) and Judith Sanders-Castro (G). Place 6 candidates are Michael E. Keasler (R), Robert Burns (D) and Mark W. Bennett (L).
See page 2A for polling locations.
Posted by : October 21, 2016| On :
Monitor Staff Reports
KAUFMAN–Having completed construction nearly two years to the day, the State Highway 31 Bypass road was opened Wednesday, diverting about 7,800 tractor-trailer trucks away from Kaufman’s downtown square as they travel from points south to north of the city.
Though in the planning for about 50 years, the groundbreaking on the jointly funded bypass took place Oct. 17, 2014.Two months ago the project’s southern portion was opened on Aug. 18.
City officials say the bypass will not only aid in the county’s thoroughfare plan but also relieve congestion in downtown Kaufman and allow for its revitalization.
The financing of the $14 million bypass included funding from the City of Kaufman, who had direct oversight on the project, its Economic Development Corporation and Kaufman County. The state plays a role in providing engineering services and will be making reimbursement payments over time as spot traffic census numbers increase.
The financing for the extensive project that has been imagined for more than 50 years called for creativity and collaboration from many segments. The Dallas District TxDOT engineered the project to save the city $13.8 million.
“Without partnerships like this, we wouldn’t be able to get projects like this built,” Selman said.
North Central Texas Council of Governments Director of Transportation Michael Morris said, “This project is a symbol of greater things to come and is part of a Phase II partnership.” He spoke of a sister road project to the north and the need for leaders to continue to develop institutional partnerships based on trust to pull together a system of transportation improvements throughout the region.
“The Highway 34 extension will give us access to 800 to 1,000 acres of land for new development including much-needed housing, restaurants, retail, medical facilities, and much more,” Kaufman Economic Development Corporation President Roy Ferrell said at the 2014 groundbreaking.
In December 2015, the City of Kaufman adopted its first tax increment reinvestment zone (TIRZ) which borders the new SH 34 bypass in and around the area of Walmart, according to City Manager Mike Slye, who said additional public improvements and streets will be constructed in the area.Kings Fort Parkway, which currently extends from Washington Street to the end of the Walmart parking lot, is also expected to be constructed to the SH 34 bypass in the near future as development continues in the area.
Although specific plans have not officially been announced for new development in the area, Slye says there is already a lot of commercial activity and interest in the area of the bypass.