During the Shiawassee County Commissioners meeting on Thursday, June 16, the commissioners moved to adopt the 2021 audit as presented. The audit was submitted to the state treasury on Tuesday, June 28 and will likely be available on the county website by mid-July.
Anderson, Tackman & Co., PLC, tasking the county audit for a second consecutive year, gave the county an unmodified opinion, which means the auditing firm was satisfied with the financial statements as they were presented in accordance with accounting principles. An unmodified opinion is positive in accounting terms.
Meeting with Shiawassee County Coordinator Dr. Brian Boggs and Board Chair Greg Brodeur (R-Dist. 2) on Tuesday morning, Boggs explained that when he started in his current position in April 2020, the 2019 audit had not been finished yet, was substantially late by that time and had a number of audit corrections needed. The 2020 audit was submitted on time, but had one finding or over budget issue, which is still good, whereas the 2021 audit had just one line item out of 2,000 line items that showed an over budgeting issue. “So it was only one minor, minor finding this time,” he stated on the newest audit. “We have made a lot of strides. It has been submitted this morning. So it is turned into the state. The deadline is July 1. So for the last two years, we’ve had on time audits. We’ve reduced all of our errors and findings we have had.”
To offer an earlier perspective on the positive accomplishment of the 2021 audit, the county had previously established a history of late audits starting in 2016 and had received a delinquency notice from the Michigan Department of Treasury connected to the 2019 audit.
Boggs and Brodeur credit the professional assistance of the in-house financial team for their efforts, along with the individual department heads for working within the constraint of department budgets. In previous years, the county would have to pay an outside agency to help clean up the audit – and it was not cheap.
“I think it’s helped a lot that our taxable value has gone up over the last two years,” Boggs offered. “We went from $10.5 million to $10.9 million in our taxable value.” He explained the increase is due to property value increase and the solar farms. The county will soon be offering a report on the effects connected to the solar farms.
In detailing the county fund balance (see graphic), Boggs explained “We’ve made a lot of adjustments to our spending habits and principally, the role of our office is to make sure that bills are paid and the departments stay within their particular budgets.” The administrative office, according to Boggs, has worked closely with each department to help keep finances on track.
The current fund balance is $2,702,887. Boggs said that amount is still a little low, but is a substantial increase from previously. A fund balance describes the net position (gross profit minus expenses) of funds.
“The turnaround of the county on its audits, I think, has been miraculous over just a few years,” Brodeur added.
In simple terms, the county does an annual budget, which is a projection of expenses based on county planning and needs. An audit determines the end-point of the budget process and demonstrates what actually occurred.
“An audit is really an autopsy of what has happened over the last year,” said Boggs, explaining why the audit is important for county residents to understand. “So, this is what we said we were going to do. Where did we actually hit according to those targets? Where have we finished the year out with actual cash, with actual spending, what assets we have remaining or have added, etc. It gives us a focal point of how our budgeting matched what we said we were going to do and how we did manage to do that and live within our means.”
Based on those earlier audit issues, Boggs shared that new policies have since been developed to avoid duplicating those problems. He also highlighted recent changes made to county healthcare, which resulted in roughly $900,000 in county savings without changing the healthcare provider. Additionally, he mentioned the county move from the MERS (Michigan Employee’s Retirement System) pension plan and enormous legacy costs related to MERS which will eventually be balanced out under the new retirement bonding plan approved this year.