Audit expected next month; Mayor says funds not in jeopardy from delay

Published 12:14 am Tuesday, December 16, 2014

NATCHEZ — Members of Natchez’s city government should have a completed audit  in their hands by the end of the year, the city’s auditor said.

State law requires that the city have the audit for a given fiscal year completed within nine months of the close of the year. The 2012-2013 fiscal year audit was due June 30, but is still incomplete.

City officials have blamed the state of the city’s bookkeeping for the delay a number of times. The auditor, Deanne Tanksley, has likewise cited problems resolving accounts in the city ledgers’ general fund as an issue.

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The board met with members of the city clerk’s office in an executive session work session Monday afternoon to discuss how things got to the point they did.

City Attorney Hyde Carby said the meeting was conducted in executive session because it related to the job performance of city employees.

Tanksley has provided the aldermen with a draft of the audit, but while the final version is “substantially complete,” it is not yet ready for the board, she said.

“They have sent me a draft of the corrective action plan, but I just got it (Monday),” Tanksley said. “I told the board I would have (the audit) to them by January, and that is what I am sticking with.”

When Adams County’s 2012-2013 audit was late, all of the federal funds directed to the county government were withheld until the county was back in compliance. County officials said at the time the delay was because a contracted auditor did not engage the work in time.

After the county’s audit was filed with the state auditor’s office, all of the funding that had been cut off was restored. Prior to the county funding being suspended, notice was sent notifying officials the move was imminent.

Natchez Mayor Butch Brown said to his knowledge the city has not been notified that any funds are in jeopardy.

“We are trying to be proactive in that regard,” he said.

“Our books are kind of different from the county’s in some ways, but our issues with our bookkeeping have been limited to the general fund accounting. Our other funds — where we get grant funds — are administered differently than the general fund. They are very project specific, and we are trying to add to our overall audit some disclaimers and language that will attest to having a sound set of other funds and fund balances.”

Department heads handle the funds outside the general fund, and Community Development Director James Johnston oversees all federal and state grants, Brown said.

“That doesn’t mean the City Clerk’s office doesn’t issue a check, but each individual fund that we have, we administer separate from the general fund,” Brown said. “They are separately accountable.”

Following the close of the work session, Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis said after talking with the members of the clerk’s office she and the aldermen felt like they had a better understanding of some of the issues.

“I won’t say I am better, I am not healed,” Mathis said. “But I am taking medicine, and I am trying to be saved.”

The board will meet at 4 p.m. today to have its regularly scheduled second meeting of the month.

The meeting would normally fall on the fourth Tuesday, but the board rescheduled because of the proximity to the Christmas holiday.