Blue Ridge, Ga. – An audit of the Fannin County School System’s SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) collection and spending has shown that the district is being good stewards of these funds.
Fannin County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney explained the purposes of the independent audit were a requirement by the state when SPLOST collections exceed $5 million within a county.
SPLOST collections for 2017 totaled approximately $5.1 million and collections for 2018 topped that number bringing in $5.6 million.
Finance Director Susan Holloway explained that the Fannin County School calendar year ran from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018, and that collections during this period was the first fiscal school year that the system met the amount requiring an audit.
Georgia code section O.C.G.A.20-2-491 requires public school systems to maintain continuing performance audits for expenditures of sales tax.
Mauldin and Jenkins was selected to carry out the audit for the school system.
“They audit 40 school systems, including more schools in Georgia than any other firm. They also audit 53 counties including more counties in Georgia than any other firm, and they audit 112 cities including more cities in Georgia than any other firm,” Holloway said explaining the reason for choosing Mauldin and Jenkins and added, “We felt they were solid.”
The audit’s purpose was to find out if the Fannin County School System was meeting 3 requirements:
- 1. Provide a goal that ensures tax funds are spent efficiently and economically, so that the school district receives the maximum benefit from dollars collected.
- 2. Provide reports not less than once annually to ensure that the terms laid out in item 1 are being met.
- 3. Provide for periodic public recommendations not less than once annually for improvements in meeting the goal specified in item 1.
Mauldin and Jenkins tested approximately 60 claims. These claims accounted for $1,027,970 or 15.3 percent of total disbursements for the year.
Holloway announced the findings of the audit saying that Mauldin and Jenkins “concluded that the Fannin County School District’s SPLOST is operating in compliance with all laws and regulations, the referendum approved by the county citizens and industry best practices.”
Special recognition was given to Director of Maintenance and Facilities Danny Shinpaugh by the auditing firm for his role in providing the BOE with continuous and thorough updates regarding construction projects relating to school properties.
Having looked into the bidding and decision making processes involved, focusing on the recently constructed Agricultural Center, along with negotiations that had been made, Mauldin and Jenkins also recognized Shinpaugh’s outstanding management in overseeing construction projects.
“It was a very fair process,” Holloway said of the manner in which the audit was performed and gave special credit to her team in the finance department for the hard work and many hours they put in all year: “There’s a lot of times they’re the first ones here and the last ones to leave and they’re willing to dig in.”
“With the Superintendent and the Board’s support I have been able to hand pick these awesome ladies. I appreciate you for that,” Holloway said expressing thanks for all her fellow coworkers.
Dr. Gwatney shared his thoughts on the findings of the SPLOST audit: “It’s comforting to have the reassurance of an external audit to show that these funds that are being collected are being utilized legally, properly, ethically and in the manner that matches the referendum.”
The Fannin County School System is now hoping that the residents of Fannin County will continue the district’s success and provide the school system with a continuation of collections for SPLOST.
With the SPLOST IV referendum allowing the school system to collect but not exceed $27.5 million by March 2021, projections are indicating that this goal will be met before the ability to collect SPLOST funds expires.
It is the hopes of the BOE and fellow faculty with in the Fannin County School System that the public will allow for a continuation of this collection with the increased cap amount to be $34.5 million.
A Special Election will be held on Tuesday, March 19 for the approval of the SPLOST V referendum and Early Voting is taking place now. If passed the new referendum would allow FCSS to move the cap of SPLOST funds to $34.5 million.
Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com
The city of Blue Ridge audit has been reviewed by Welch, Walker & Associates and they found no issues or changes needed to be made in the report. This information is summed up from December 31, 2017. The audit was finished in June of 2018 and has been approved with no changes.
The auditors are looking at items like capital projects, funding, big downtown projects, and new water rates. The auditors judge the financial reports based on a three-tier system: the highest level is 3) Material Weakness (most serious issues), 2) Significant Deficiencies and the lowest level is 1) Management Comments—these aren’t even shared in the report as they are minute.
Findings found in the Blue Ridge financial report that are tested. There were three Significant Deficiencies findings within the Blue Ridge audit.
2015-01: “Lack of segregation of duties” and this is a very common finding in a ‘small-town’ community. This just means that there’s only one person working in a position where mistakes can be made and there’s no additional person to go back and check over reports, data entry, etc.
2015-02: “Lack of contract for revenue transactions” a few years ago it was spotted that the franchise tax agreement between the tri-state EMC and the city of Blue Ridge is outdated and it’s not been renewed officially on paper. There are a few things that need to be updated within the contract and it needs to be signed by Tri-State EMC. This has been addressed and is something the city of Blue Ridge has been working on.
2017-01: “Rates were not calculating properly in the software” this is a new finding but has already been addressed and fixed. For the new water bills in 2017, the rates were not calculating correctly in the software but was fixed in May of 2018 while they were going over the audit. Since the amount of money was ‘material’ it needed to go in the report. The ‘material’ amount was 32,110.00 from 2017 and 12,850.00 from January-May of 2018.
The 2017-01 error was the city’s software error and will not be charged to the citizens of Blue Ridge.
The annual summary of the 2016 County Audit was the main focus of the Fannin County Board of Commissioners meeting held on August 8, 2017.
It became apparent during the review that the public were not the only ones who have received limited information in the past. As discussion came to a management report within the audit, Post Commissioner Earl Johnson was surprised that he had not been made aware of this document and was even further surprised that he had never received a copy of this annual document since 2012.
Commission Chairman Stan Helton made it clear that “anything that is available to me, is available to both of them.” In keeping with his promise of transparency within the county, Helton went on to say, “We are putting up everything and not leaving anything out”, stating that the entire audit is available on the County website for the public to view.
Post Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee wanted to clear up misinformation that had been put out in the form of editorials. Over the past two weeks, concerns have been expressed about the county being short of emergency vehicles.
While the county was down three ambulances, EMA Director Robert Graham clarified that only one front line vehicle was down, while the other two were back up vehicles. He expressed that this is a rarity and that there is always a backup plan. When questioned about the public’s safety, Graham responded, “At no time were any of our citizens in any danger of not having emergency services.”
Fannin County Maintenance Department Head, Ken Petty, brought three bids to the board regarding renovations at Animal Control. These renovations include the installation of guillotine doors that would allow the dogs to go outside directly from their kennels. The addition of these doors would also allow FCAC staff to safely enter the dog runs for daily cleaning and feeding. The lowest bid was $18,932, coming in approximately $500 under the singular bid placed last meeting. The board, however, chose to still table the vote for another two weeks to give Petty time to gather a start and completion date from the bidders.
Zach Ratcliff, Fannin County Public Works Director, was added to the agenda as his department was in need of new equipment. The county’s two mowers have seen over 6000 hours and are in “limp mode” as Ratcliff stated. These being the most used equipment in the department that provide safety on our roadways, Ratcliff presented the board with a bid for $118,225 to replace one of the existing mowers.
Ratcliff went through an existing government contract and was able to save the county $24,864 by doing so. Commissioners unanimously agreed that this purchase was necessary and would be able to use funds from SPLOST to cover this necessity.
The Fannin County Board of Commissioners approved the purchase of a new dump truck last week during its monthly meeting. (more…)