POLK COUNTY COMMISSIONERS RECEIVE BUDGET UPDATE, OFFER SUGGESTIONS ON AUDITOR SEARCH

The Polk County Commissioners met Tuesday at the Polk County Government Center and passed their consent agenda.  The consent agenda included the meeting minutes from July 2, July 16, and July 23, as well as two payments to Hewlett Packard totaling $1,443.97.  It also included payments of $10,728.85 for a lost warrant to Kustom Kollision LLC, and $23,082.75 to Stone’s Mobile Radio, Inc. The commissioners then accepted two donations, $750 to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office for the Polk County Posse from Polk County AGR’L Fair Association in Fertile. And a donation of $46.14 from Little Norway WELCA in Fertile to Polk County Coordinated Victim Services.  They also accepted an increase of $31,000 from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The new money increases the funds available as benefits to enrolled participants to $78,095 for the year.

A discussion was held on how to go about hiring an auditor for the next two years.  Polk County notified the State Auditor’s Office (SAO) in 2018 that they would not be renewing for another two years.  The commissioners suggested Polk County Administrator Chuck Whiting talk with Hoffman, Philip & Knutson, PLLC, out of Thief River Falls who had done the county’s audits through 2014. “The process is in even number years we are required before August 1 to notify the State Auditors Office if we are going to change auditors,” said Whiting. “And we use the State Auditor.  Last year we notified them we would not be renewing with them for the 2-year cycle of audits for 2019-2020.  They are doing the 2018 audit right now.  But because the actual audit will begin in December at the end of the fiscal year, we need to select a new auditor.  So, our discussion was, how do we want to go about doing this.  We do have an auditing firm that did an audit for several years out of Thief River Falls.  [The commissioners] suggested that I go back and talk with them.  I’ll report back later this month on what we come up with.”

Whiting said that while the audit is essential, the SAO doesn’t provide a quote as a matter of policy, so costs aren’t known until complete. “The audit is a serious thing,” said Whiting.  “It is the check on how we operate and handle public money.  There is no higher authority than the State Auditor, who has done our last four audits.  They can’t give us a quote as a matter of policy, so we end up paying whatever it costs.  The more familiar they are with us, the easier the audits are to do from a logistics standpoint, so the costs tend to come down. We know the audit itself is subject to review.  And when we use a private firm, it’s subject to review by the State Auditor.  We’re trying to strike a balance through what not only saves the county some cost but also gets us a good, sound audit.”  

Whiting also told the board he’d like to see the audit returned to the county earlier in the year so they can use it throughout the budgeting process.  During his update on progress for the 2020 budget, Whiting told the board they are working on compiling all the budgets after meeting with the department heads.  “We are in the process of compiling the budgets,” said Whiting.  “Then, we can see what it means in terms of the levy, program dollars, and overall priorities.  When we plan a budget, it’s not just about the money. It’s also about making sure we can do the things we plan to do and that we have some flexibility to deal with changes throughout the year.  We continue to have some building issues with a lot of roof replacements and basic maintenance-type stuff.  Our biggest item is the remodeling of our Human Services Center in East Grand Forks.  We’re in good fiscal health, but we have some costs next year that we can’t control.  It’s an election year, and we’ll have three elections.  And it’s a longer calendar year with two additional days of pay.”

The standard number of hours in the Polk County calendar is 2,080 or 2,088 depending on the year.  The 2019 schedule has 2,080 hours, next year there is an additional day of work, plus another day for leap year totaling 2,096 hours.  The board also delayed the awarding of the elevator project for further review of the bids for specifics after two bids were less than $1,000 apart. The final action from the board was the purchase of a Vanguard Income Approach module for $4,600 from the Recorder Compliance funds.  The module will assist the county to better determine the valuation of commercial properties, specifically apartments, hotels, and rental units.