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Annual audit shows irregularities in federal program

By Sarah Smith

Hubbard County’s annual audits, usually squeaky clean, had a blemish for the year 2012.

Outside auditor Colleen Hoffman of Thief River Falls, found irregularities in reporting of federal funds in Social Services’ Medical Assistance Program.

It wasn’t a case of fraud or missing funds, Hoffman told the board Tuesday, simply of “late and inaccurate reporting.”

The Social Services Department was immediately notified. Medical Assistance is considered a high-risk program that brings in the most money, Hoffman told the board.

“Lack of controls to ensure timely and accurate reporting can potentially affect the availability of federal funds and the reimbursement of expenditures of federal funds,” Hoffman’s report indicated.

The county has submitted the corrections and has since adhered to reporting deadlines, the board learned.

“Because it’s federal testing we have to put in a corrective action plan,” Hoffman told the board.

Hubbard County Social Services Director said the reporting deadline was a one-time occurrence.

A new fiscal supervisor has been hired to replace Rick Peterson, who retired last spring.

“There was a late report and some figures that were transposed,” Bessler said. The issue “got a little messy” to clean up, but has been rectified. The department has retained the services of Beltrami County periodically to train financial staff and Peterson’s replacement.

“It’s rare because you have such great department heads,” Hoffman said of the audit finding.

The county’s financial health is otherwise good, with the county paying off debt and spending down reserves in the general fund, Hoffman said.

“That money needs to be in service if it’s not needed,” Hoffman advised the board, because interest is so low.

There is $7.1 million surplus in the general fund balance. Some of those funds will be put into use as the county starts courthouse renovations soon.

The county’s capital assets amount to $54 million. Highway construction projects financed by County State Aid Highway funding increased net governmental activities by $1.9 million.

“The total net position of business-type activities increased by $99,316 for the year ended Sept. 30, 2012, primarily as a result of the repayment of debt,” the report noted.

In other business, the county:

n Heard that businesses would rather have a smaller sales tax applied year-round than a higher seasonal tax spread over two quarters. A new Minnesota law allows political subdivisions to levy up to a .5 percent general sales tax for earmarked projects.

The money cannot be used for everyday operations. The county has been discussing the possibility of such a tax for road projects during the summer, when the population swells and the roads are under heavy use.

n Adopted a resolution in support of the Heartland Trail Spur to Itasca State Park.

n Reported recent timber auction sales of $396,955.34.

n Set a public hearing for Nov. 5 at 1:30 p.m. at 12:30 p.m. as the county combines its Planning Commission with its Board of Adjustment. The theory is to have fewer, better trained members to handle the increasingly complex cases both boards must decide.

n Took no action on a request by American Legion Post 212, which petitioned a raise for the county’s Veterans Services Officer. Greg Remus has been on the job three years and is very popular with vets. The board said it would take the matter under advisement. Remus is the lowest paid department head in the county.

n Took no action on a request to increase University of Minnesota Extension office support time. Three Extension coordinators said their workloads had increased to the point where full-time support staff is necessary to run the office.

n Shifted some duties from the auditor-treasurer to the recorder. The recorder has become part of the Land Records department. The duties include processing land transfers, maintaining the county’s property tax system, certifying current and delinquent taxes, collecting deed taxes and mortgage registration tax required for document recording.

The changes were made over the objections of County Attorney Don Dearstyne, who questioned the legality of the shifted duties.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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