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Ahead of the pack

County auditors issue a clean bill of health

Warren County’s most recent audit has come back clean.

Cory Johnson and Brian Chruscial, partners with the Pittsburgh office of Zelenkofske Axelrod LLC, discussed the audit with the commissioners during Monday’s work session.

“(Fiscal Director) Eric (Hern) and his team stepped up this year,” Johnson said, noting that the audit was completed sooner than it would in a typical year.

“(We are) getting close to have an unmodified clean opinion. The plan is to get there in 12 to 18 months,” he said. “Everything is clean.”

The issue he cited ties to capital assets and is “an issue you guys inherited.”

He further said the shift to bring the finances for human services under one fiscal director was “a great change.”

Commissioner Ben Kafferlin called it a “great change to have Eric (Hern) over both sides.”

While he said the county wasn’t initially planning that move, Kafferlin said the county has “seen some benefits I wasn’t anticipating.”

Johnson said a “squeaky clean” audit next year is expected and told the commissioners that their fund balance is “on the low side” of what accounting standards call for but highlighted the benefit of the county not having any debt.

“You are one of the very few counties that have no debt,” he said, noting it was not out of the ordinary to see counties the size of Warren carry $10 million to $30 million in debt. “That’s a positive place to be sitting going forward.”

The county, Johnson reported, has also “really well funded” its pension.

Chruscial noted that the audit reports an increased liability for health insurance for retirees.

“You’ve been paying it as you go,” he noted. “It’s in your budget anyways.”

Johnson noted that is an attempt for accounting standards to limit loopholes to avoid having liabilities on the books.

He further noted that the capital asset issue is “in theory… irrelevant” because the capital assets the county has aren’t liquid assets.

“To be honest with you, you’re doing what you have to from an insurance side and maintaining those assets.”

“My takeaway, since we took office (we have) been playing catch up trying to put out fires and fix things,” Kafferlin said, alleging that “most of the fires are out” and the county can now “look at strategic things. What other things are you seeing counties doing that are best practices now that we’re pretty much done fixing stuff?”

Johnson noted that most counties wouldn’t say they are done fixing but noted Warren County has “gotten farther ahead.”

He suggested fiscal policies, such as a policy regarding fund balance, that “some of the other counties have budgeted for in the future.”

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