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City looking for new accountants

NATCHEZ — The City of Natchez is again searching for accounting staff just more than a year after hiring two accountants to get the city’s books back in order.

The city hired Nancy Hydrick and Christine Brinegar in November 2012 to take over the city’s bookkeeping and data entry for the city’s accounting software in the city clerk’s office.

Brinegar left the clerk’s office for another job in July, and Hydrick will be leaving at the end of December for personal reasons, City Clerk Donnie Holloway said.

Ward 6 Alderman Dan Dillard said he is discouraged the city is again searching for accountants just a year after hiring Hydrick and Brinegar.

Dillard suggested to the board of aldermen Tuesday that the city consider contracting out its financial accounting to an outside firm. Dillard said before the meeting a firm with professional expertise and experience with other municipalities could take the city’s accounting to where it needs to be.

Dillard and other city officials have voiced continued concern about the state of the city’s financial accounting. The hiring of the two accountants last year was an attempt to remedy the disarray in the city’s books.

In February, four months after they were hired, Hydrick and Brinegar reported to the board of aldermen that they were still struggling to find structure in the city’s accounting system.

Some discrepancies between numbers in the city’s books and the accounting software were “so messed up” the accountants had to back into numbers to start reconciling the numbers, Brinegar said at the time.

The city’s audit was late this year and found a material weakness and significant deficiencies in the city’s accounting system. The audit was accompanied by several recommendations of policies and procedures the city should put in place to ensure better accounting practices.

Holloway admits his office has been plagued with accounting difficulties. Holloway has attributed problems to a difficult and drawn-out transition to the city’s Springbrook accounting software, for which Holloway has said his staff was not properly trained, as well as understaffing.

Holloway said the city’s accounting is better than it was before Hydrick and Brinegar came on board.

“It’s a lot better than it used to be, I can tell you that,” he said.

Brown said the city plans to hire two accountants. He envisions one lead accountant, an accountant to serve as a bookkeeper and a clerk for data entry as the accounting staff for the city clerk.

The advertisement for the job states the city is looking for a “senior staff accountant” with a master’s degree in accounting or a bachelor’s degree in accounting with three-five years experience in government accounting.

Duties included in the advertisement outline the accountant would be responsible for “complex accounting within a municipality,” as well as budget preparation, implementation of a “strong system of internal controls” and the oversight of a small staff.

The salary is listed as negotiable. Hydrick’s salary is $45,000, and Brinegar’s was the same.

Mayor Butch Brown said he, Holloway, Hydrick, personnel manager Brenda Cantu and independent auditor Deanne Tanksley of The Gillon Group interviewed candidates Monday and Tuesday and will continue today.