Vidalia cited in audit

Published 12:29 am Thursday, March 16, 2017

VIDALIA — During its annual independent audit, the Town of Vidalia was cited for not paying vendors on time — in some cases within a 12-month period — for a federal project.

Silas Simmons CPA Wes Gore Tuesday at the board’s regularly scheduled meeting, also presented on four other financial statement errors and the state of the town’s finances during the 2015-16 fiscal year.

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The first finding related to failure to pay $17,318 in invoices on Vidalia’s IT Center, a federal grant funded project. Gore said federal grant recipients should pay vendor claims after receiving funds within a 30-day window, but in some cases months passed before the vendors were paid.

The audit lists that the current management was not made aware of the status of funds and payments, which was a significant deficiency in internal controls. Gore said when becoming aware of the issue, the current administration paid the claims promptly and this issue was resolved going forward.

Silas Simmons auditors found two issues with the hydroelectric plant fund — both town ordinance issues. The hydro fund had a reserve requirement of $2.31 million for June 30, 2016, however, the fund was underfunded by $685,000.

Gore said this issue has been corrected going forward by Mayor Buz Craft’s administration.

The other hydro fund issue related to documentation of meetings. The audit reports that responsible personnel, who are no longer employed by the town, failed to document procedures in obligating hydro funds, Craft said.

Craft said his administration would implement the procedures, including having public meetings.

The town was also months behind on reconciling its accounts payable to the general ledger, Gore said. The people responsible for the failure are no longer employed with the town.

Finally, Louisiana statue requires expenditures not exceed the budget by more than 5 percent. The town budgeted $9.7 million in expenditures but actually spent $10.6 million, a 9.36-percent difference.

Silas Simmons administered the audit and it was released through the Louisiana State Legislature’s office recently.

Craft said he is aiming to have a clean audit with zero findings in the upcoming year.

“I will be very disappointed if we don’t obtain that,” Craft said. “We are doing, I feel, a good job of managing the people’s town finances.

“We are going to improve on that every month. We have the people in place for checks and balances that are very important in managing the people’s money.”

Gore also presented on the town’s utility and Riverfront Development funds, which included some substantial losses during the previous administration.

The electric department made approximately $2.2 million in 2016, while the natural gas department also made money, approximately $350,000.

However, the water department lost approximately $432,000 and the sewer department had a smaller $6,216 loss.

The utility fund as a whole gained approximately $2.1 million, but following transfers to other funds, only shows an approximately $1.2 million net income.

The Riverfront Development Fund, after transfers from other funds, intergovernmental revenue and interest income, shows a gain of approximately $1.2 million.

However, Gore said the Riverfront Development Fund, which includes the convention center, had an operating loss of approximately $1.3 million.

Gore said the town lost approximately $740,000 in net asset values in fiscal year 2015-16.

Over the past four years, Vidalia gained $173,529 in 2013, $1,339,193 in 2014, $204,477 in 2015 and lost $739,973 in 2016, said Gore.

In other news, the town tabled a decision to approve the occupational license and application for an outdoor sign within city limits for Snowball Paradise, which is changing its location to 4299 Carter St.

Alderwoman Sabrina Doré said to her understanding the snowball stand does not meet standards for buildings in the town. Doré said while she understands it does not make financial sense to put a lot of money into a snowball stand, one variation from the town standards could lead to 10 exceptions being made.

Doré said the board should table the decision until the planning commission could review the application, which the board approved.

Craft said the planning commission had not had a chance to review the application because the board needed additional members appointed to be functional,

Snowball Paradise is owned by Joe and Martie Hoover.

4Jeff Ferguson, Dewitt Wyatt and Jay Hamilton were appointed to the planning commission.

4Occupational licenses were approved for Kelly Estis H&R Block at 1109 Carter St., Suite 9; Because of Him, which will sell clothing and accessories, at 1109 Carter St., Suite 6; Ewing Electric; and Creel’s Cuts, 1620 Carter St. — the former Budget Cuts.

4The town approved a 40-year land lease for a cell phone tower with Alltel Communications Wireless. The town will receive a $25,000 lump sum and a $500 monthly rental. The rental will escalate 10 percent within two years and every five years following.