Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Friday, Nov. 3 @ 3:51 p.m. / Local Government, Oregon
Curry County Updates 23-Year-Old Finance Policy, Is Working On More Formal Procedures
Curry County commissioners approved a new receipt-of-funds policy that, though temporary, would address concerns raised by state and federal agencies, including the Oregon Department of Transportation.
The county has not updated its financial policy since 2000, Director of Operations Ted Fitzgerald told the Board on Wednesday. The policy commissioners approved will be a placeholder until staff draft an official set of guidelines with help from the Lane County Council of Governments, or LCOG, he said.
Fitzgerald’s recommendation came after LCOG’s chief financial officer reviewed Curry County’s finances and spoke with its staff in the finance department, the treasurer’s office and in administration.
“She was very concerned about the state of our control cash, which is essentially the fundamental measure of how you’re controlling money-in and money-out with day-to-day business,” he said. “What she said was the condition of our cash controls right now puts us in jeopardy of losing federal funds, which will shut us down.”
According to Fitzgerald, the county has received warning letters “over the last couple of years.”
“We have a recent letter we received last month, I believe it was ODOT talking about our signal audit procedures and their concerns,” he told commissioners. “They need to have a plan from us by Nov. 15 that says we’ve implemented a plan that will address these shortcomings.”
Fitzgerald said the temporary receipt-of-funds policy commissioners approved includes a new vendor master file form and an updated fixed-asset disposal form.
There are also changes to the county’s procurement form. Fitzgerald said staff are aware that there are procurement rules, but they haven’t read them.
“We’re going to incorporate a form that requires they integrate those procurement rules with every one of their purchases or procurements,” he said. “That is reviewed by us and basically it’ll help get everybody trained and help us move in the same direction. It is state law and federal law that we have these policies in place and we follow them.”
Another fundamental change to the policy is a requirement that all moneys receivable be posted to a general ledger that the Treasurer’s Office oversees, Fitzgerald said. That way, Curry County Treasurer Dave Barnes can deposit the money in the bank without having to coordinate with the department it came from, he said.
A long-term solution the LCOG representative recommended was integrating the Caselle government software system into nearly every county department, Fitzgerald said. This will allow for more transparency and efficiency, he said.
Fitzgerald said his office will have that system implemented, and staff trained, by February.
Curry County departments currently do their own billing and depositing, Barnes told commissioners. They then give his office a turnover sheet along with a copy of the deposit ticket and receipt. Most money comes into the county via credit cards and Point & Pay. Barnes said he handles no cash and very few checks.
“What we do is we open up the bank statement and we look at the activity from the previous day,” he said. “We send out emails to all the departments that had activities, they send (us) a turnover sheet. Some people get the turnover sheets when they do the transaction themselves before they hear from us; other people wait until they do hear from us. There’s no uniformity to the process right now.”
In the old days, Barnes said, departments kept hard copies of their turnover sheets, with the receipts stapled to them, in a ring binder.
Barnes said he “wholeheartedly” supported the proposed changes. He mentioned hiring a new staff member who is eager and hungry to make things better.
“To be able to put a checkmark in the box — yes this now cleared — and move it into another file… I think it’s a wonderful thing,” Barnes said.
Fitzgerald told commissioners on Wednesday that he planned to train staff on the new interim financial policy on Thursday. Commissioner Jay Trost urged Fitzgerald to train the county’s elected officials on the new policy Friday.
“This set of policies and procedures are going to be basically a stand-in until we get our formal ones developed by LCOG,” Trost said. “But these are good."