By RONNIE ELLIS
Local agencies funded through special taxing districts have complained some of them were unfairly labeled as non-compliant with financial reporting requirements by a review of taxing districts by the state Auditor of Public Accounts.
But the problem may be how data was reported to the auditor and which year’s data was used to determine compliance.
Auditor Adam Edelen’s report revealed more than 1,200 special taxing districts collect $1.5 billion in fees and taxes with little oversight. He characterized the system as a “ghost government.” More than 1,000 statutes govern the “muddled morass” and Edelen wants lawmakers to require more standard reporting, accountability and transparency.
Stephenie Steitzer, spokeswoman for Edelen, said his office has tried mightily to correct any errors, some caused by inaccurate data. Edelen relied in part on data from the Department of Local Government which annually collects the data but has no enforcement authority over them.
DLG officials say the problem was not with the submitted data but which year the auditor used to determine whether districts were compliant.
“One of the major sources of confusion was that the auditor’s office chose to use 2011 as the compliance year,” said Andrew Hartley, general counsel for DLG. He said an agency might have submitted a 2012 audit to DLG rather than 2011 and thus would be technically out of compliance.
Steitzer and an auditor on Edelen’s staff, Nathan Crowder, confirmed they chose 2011 — and for a specific reason. That was the most recent year which auditors could use to compare an agency’s budgeted expenditures against its actual, audited expenditures.
Crowder also pointed out that a note explaining that was shown on each page of the website along with a request that any agency which believed the data listed for it was inaccurate to contact the auditor’s office by email to have the entry corrected.
For the full story, see the print or E-edition of Tuesday's Glasgow Daily Times.