CUMBERLAND — Officials with Allegany County may resort to withholding funding from the local school board over a financial audit that is nearly a year late.
Jason Bennett, director of finance for the county, gave an update on the Allegany County Board of Education’s audit at Thursday’s regular meeting of the county commissioners.
Bennett said the delinquent 2018 BOE audit — which was due Sept. 30 — is negatively impacting the ability of the county to complete its state and federal audits.
“Things are starting to mount against us. That is why I’m here to update you where we are at,” said Bennett. “I’m to the point where I want to recommend to you guys to consider possibly reaching out to the board of education and maybe withholding appropriations. We have to make it clear this is important and it is taxpayer funds.”
The county’s fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30. Bennett said, as a result of the past due BOE audit, the county is receiving a poor rating as well.
“As you know our (county) fiscal year 2018 audit was due Dec. 31, 2018,” said Bennett. “We are not complete. The reason why at this point is because we are waiting on the board of education audit.”
Bennett said all agencies and departments of the county must submit their audits so the county can compile its audit.
“I’ll give you a rundown of the list of extensions we’ve done,” said Bennett. “Our audit was due to the state Dec. 31; that is first and foremost. They stop extending it for us. They give four extensions and then they stop, so we are technically out of compliance with the state.
“We also have a single audit for federal funds. Their hard deadline was March 31. We also extended our bond disclosure twice at this point. We can keep extending it, but at some point, the bond raters are going to wonder why we don’t have a draft financial statement posted, so that needs to be resolved.”
Bennett said Allegany County has won recognitions for their timely audits for 25 years.
“We also just found out at the end of June we lost that because we missed the deadline,” said Bennett.
Commissioners would have to vote to withhold funding if they choose to take the measure.
“It is a serious problem," said Commission President Jake Shade. I hope we wouldn’t have to withhold funding but that will be a discussion we will have to have in the future. The thing that is not getting enough attention, there is another one of these due Sept. 30."
“We are really into the audit season for fiscal 2019 now,” added Bennett.
Larry McKenzie, finance director for the school board, told the Times-News in May the BOE had recently come out from under a comprehensive audit from the Maryland Office of Legislative Audits. Those audits, which review the administrative operations of all school boards in Maryland, are conducted every six years.
However, the OLA audit has been completed for several months.
“It seems like (the school board) has been behind for a long time. Is this the longest it’s been?” Shade asked Bennett.
“In the 16 years I’ve been here, yes this is the farthest — we’ve reached May before but never July,” Bennett said. “They are 10 months behind. I’m pretty sure the school board wouldn’t be happy if students turned in homework 10 months, or nearly a whole school year, late.”
Commissioner Creade Brodie Jr. asked Bennett if there was a projection when the BOE audit might be done.
“They indicate it is coming soon, but I’ve heard that a couple of times,” said Bennett.
BOE member Tammy Fraley was in the audience at Thursday’s meeting. She said she believes the audit is nearly complete and should be voted on at the July school board meeting.
Shade said that is good news but, “there is one more (2019) needed by Sept. 30.”
Follow staff writer Greg Larry on Twitter @GregLarryCTN.