Through several years of negative audits and deficit budgets, the Morehouse Parish Police Jury has managed to stay afloat while working with a budget that has not increased in over 16 years.
The Jury's latest Legislative Audit, which is for the 2012 calendar year, was released Monday. The audit, while at face value does not bode well. Police Jury President Terry Matthews said, though, there are valid reasons for each finding.
For the eighth year in a row, the general fund had a deficit at the end of the year, closing out 2012 $1.41 million in the red. Revenues for 2012 were $5,975,675 compared to 2011 revenues of $6,720,718.
The largest contributing factor is a 90 percent drop in operating grants - $67,177 in 2012 versus $765,519 in 2011. The greatest expense variables was a shift in the cost of debt services - 2012 at $24,447 versus $9,296 in 2011. These debt services were late fees and penalties accrued for failure to submit timely quarterly employee federal payroll taxes.
Most of the findings were a result of uncompleted work by the Jury treasurer including:
No complete record of fixed assets until asked for
Fees paid to the coroner and for autopsies which should have been billed to the City of Bastrop and other municipalities - going back to 2005, the treasurer had been paying all coroner and related expenses without then billing the appropriate municipality resulting in a deficit to the general fund, with the amount still undetermined.
Numerous instances in which bills were paid well after the 30-day invoice date, resulting in late fees
No supporting documentation for $157,745 of $1.8 million large purchases
Late filling of five of six annual reports
A deficit in the criminal court fund of $319,572 due to the treasurer not asking the district attorney for money to pay down the deficiency.
The Jury was directed to have a written plan to correct these deficiencies, in which they complied. They were also told to hire a CPA firm to come in and help correct these problems.
A change in the staffing of the treasurer's department in March, 2013 has resulted in several of the findings being resolved.
"It is going to take us some time, but with Chassidy [Phillips] and Amy [Lebrun] now slowly getting on top of it, we will fare better next year and even better the year after that," Matthews said.
"Since I have been on the Jury, we have had a budget of $6 million, even with rising fuel and other related costs," Matthews continued. "We are now in an "Emergency Spending Only" mode and are diligently trying to do the best with what we have in order to serve the citizens of Morehouse Parish."
For the complete audit report, go to www.lla.state.la.us.