Perry official: Misposted receipt an honest mistake

PERRY TWP. — Township Fiscal Officer Susan Johnston said she’s not perfect — she made an honest mistake in misposting $9,300 income to the wrong account in 2017, but residents can rest assured that they have nothing to worry about with township accounting.

“We’re doing things right at Perry Township,” she said Monday.

The missstep she indicated was rare resulted in a noncompliance notation on the recently released state audit of township finances for 2016 and 2017, under the schedule of findings as misposting of receipts. The tax advance receipt for the police district fund was inadvertently posted to the road and bridge fund and wasn’t found until the audit, with the money transferred back to the police fund in November.

In recent months, the police department was instructed by trustees to cut hours worked by officers due to tight finances, but according to Johnston, the $9,300 doesn’t change the police department’s situation and isn’t much considering the amount budgeted for this year for the police department alone is $350,000. In January and February of 2018, $65,000 was spent in the police fund. This year, $53,000 was carried over from 2018 to 2019 in that same fund to start the year and that includes the $9,300.

“We’re still not flush in that fund,” she said.

Johnston explained that the numbers for the police district fund and road and bridge fund are close and she apparently misread the fund number when she posted the receipt. She didn’t catch it and neither did anyone else. She also said it’s the first time in 20 years that something like that happened.

“I’m upset with myself more than you can imagine,” she said, adding she’s now 15 times more careful.

The bank statement balanced — the money was just in the wrong fund.

The noncompliance finding also noted that $451 of Motor Vehicle License Fund intergovernmental revenue was inappropriately posted to the Permissive Motor Vehicle Fund property taxes in 2016. Audit adjustments were made. Those accounts names are also similar.

Under the official response to the noncompliance finding, it was stated that “in the future, the township will be more careful with receipt postings.”

The management letter sent to the Board of Trustees included some additional noncompliance findings, regarding public records training, outstanding checks that dated back more than 90 days, having new employees acknowledge receipt of information about the fraud reporting system and adopting appropriation measures at the fund level.

Johnston said she had the public records training and couldn’t find the certificate and she wasn’t aware of the need for new employees to sign something regarding the fraud reporting system. As for appropriating at fund levels, she said that’s what she was told to do by an auditor from day one. She’s been on the job 19 years. This is the first year an auditor has had a problem with it.

As for the outdated checks, she said one was from 2017. The rest were from early on and some may date back to before she was there. Some of the checks were voided, some were sent to the state of Ohio and she suspects a bank error.

According to the management letter, the list as of Dec. 31, 2017 included 37 checks totaling $14,932, with check amounts ranging from $3.78 to $7,826. She called on some of the checks and was told the person receiving the check had received their money. She said she had asked the audit staff how to get rid of the outstanding checks and was referred to another department which referred her back to the state auditors.

“We are working with legal counsel to decide how to take care of that,” she said.

There were also recommendations made regarding where some funds were recorded, such as the $184,110 for paving. She had always listed the funds as other expenditures and this time was told it should be listed as capital outlay. Other recommendations dealt with segregation of duties, which would be hard since the Fiscal Officer is a one-person operation, recording of budgetary amounts and approval of bank accounts opening and closing. Johnston said the mention of bank accounts dealt with a CD being switched from one bank to another, which was talked about by trustees with documentation signed by trustees, but she didn’t have it noted in board minutes.

Bottom line, she said “I believe we had a good audit. I don’t think there’s anything for township people to worry about.”