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Commissioners fix Fair funding clerical mistake

 

August 22, 2019



The County Commissioners met in special meeting last week to fix a clerical mistake that left the Crook County Fair Board budget short by almost $78,000. The issue was caused by misunderstandings during the changeover to a new style of budget, says County Clerk Linda Fritz, and she stresses that it involved no mishandling of money.

“The fair board has not been careless in their money, they have not over-spent their money, it was simply a clerical error of money that was never there to begin with,” she stresses.

“It was an error in the budget in cash carry-over and estimated revenues, but it is not money that is missing.”

The issue occurred during the process of changing to a different style of budget, she says.

“We had asked the fair board to switch to the county’s form of budget a few years ago. They used to do a special district budget, but they are not a special district, and it’s also harder to understand,” says Fritz. “We worked through preparing a new budget for them, working with them.”

Fritz explains that, when a budget is prepared, one of the items listed is cash to be carried over from one year to the next. One of three types of cash carry-over listed on the fair budget was depreciation, which was reported at roughly $14,000.

“What I did not know is that the depreciation money had already been put into the cash and investments,” she says, explaining that this meant the same money appeared in two different places and was therefore counted twice as cash carry-over.

The error was not caught because, Fritz says, she does not actually see the fair board’s cash accounts or reports, so was not aware that the $14,000 was already included in the cash and investments.

“They were reporting more money as cash on hand to go into the next fiscal year than they actually physically have. That happened for three years,” she says.

“Budgeting is a complicated process and it takes time to learn a new way of doing it.”

The outcome of the mistake is that the fair board believed it had more cash available than it did, so made a smaller request for a portion of the available mill levy money than it otherwise would have.

“In order to fix it, the original plan was to have them do a promissory note of tax anticipation, where the county would advance them the money on the property tax money they would get in November,” Fritz says.

This would have made the numbers match but, because the fair board requested less mill levy money, it would only have solved the problem temporarily.

“That would help them for two or three months and then, when the property tax money comes in, they would have to pay it back to the county,” she says.

“There is still the fiscal issue that there wouldn’t be any money after that, so we’d have to come back to look at it again.”

A second solution was found.

“The only possibility was to fund them this money through the emergency reserve as they had outstanding bills in need of payment,” Fritz says.

“I consulted with the county auditor on whether or not we could do that and, by statute, yes you can. The county auditor and county commissioners approved this and if they choose in the next two years to say the fair board has to tighten their purse strings, they can choose to do that because they control the purse strings.”

A motion to approve $78,000 in funding for the fair board from the emergency reserve was approved at the special meeting. Fritz stresses that the incident does not reflect improper behavior on the part of any county representative.

“Nobody lost, misused or was careless with $78,000, it was a clerical error in the budgetary process,” she says. “Before believing any misinformation you may hear, if anyone has any questions, they can contact me.”

Fritz is in the process of preparing special budget training sessions that will be available for all county board members to assist them in understanding the annual budget when presented to them.

 
 

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