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County receives clean audit report

Photo by Jay Forness

Cape Girardeau County received a clean audit report from Stanley, Dirnberger, Hopper & Associates. The audit, which covered the county’s financial transactions during 2021, was presented by Stanley, Dirnberger, Hopper & Associates’ Patrick Kintner.

“Overall, the numbers are significantly better this year,” Kintner said, stating that the county ended 2021 with close to $35 million in cash reserves compared to 19.7 million at the end of 2020.

Kintner said the major driver for the increase in funds was an additional $10 million in sales tax revenue. All of the county’s sales taxes grew in 2021, but the majority of the increase was the new half-cent law enforcement sales tax, which raised $8.4 million last year.

In addition, the increase in cash reserves for 2021 includes the first round of American Rescue Plan Act funding – totaling $7.6 million. The county received the first half of its ARPA funding in May 2021, though didn’t spend any of the funds that year.

Kintner said the biggest increase in expenses last year were in public safety, with the county spending around $3 million in law enforcement salary increases, radio upgrades and new sheriff’s office equipment.

“I didn’t have any adjustments between funds and you didn’t have any deficiencies that I felt needed to be reported here – nothing that rose to the level of a weakness or significant deficiency,” Kintner said.

He added that his only concern was making sure the county follows its federal grant procedures.

Kintner said they were able to find pass-through grants that did not follow the formal process including a data collection form and pre-approval by the county commission.

County Auditor Pete Frazier said the county doesn’t just need the amount awarded through grants, but also any compliance requirements attached to grants that pass through the county before being used by various organizations and county departments.

“All that paperwork and all the grant information needs to go to the county auditor’s office for compliance purposes to insure that we know what the compliance requirements are,” Kintner said. “I think that may not always be occurring.”

In other action

• The county commission approved the purchase of new financial software from Tyler Technologies to track the county’s fund balances and all department transactions on June 23. The new contract includes a one-time fee of $59,390 for the software and annual maintenance costs of $19,510.

County Auditor PeteFrazier said the new software will be a major upgrade to the county and will provide modern functionality such as a cloud-based system that is not present in the county’s current software.

“Our current software was purchased in 2006,” Frazier said. “We know that technology software and hardware have a lifespan of about five years, so we are considerably further down the road than that.

Frazier said the county has been able to add enhancements to its current software since 2006, but learned in the past year that further upgrades would not be possible.

“There are some limitations to our software, such as being able to utilize remote access in an efficient way or have real-time access for departments,” Frazier said. “It would be accessible from any location, including in the event of a major disaster. The cloud-base also closes a gap for cybersecurity, and it puts the responsibility on Tyler Software for security.”

The new software will include an approval process for transactions to make sure they are accurate, as well as a special feature for expenditures linked to specific projects. The software can also be used to submit budget requests and will allow departments to see the balance of each budgeted line item.

The county already uses Tyler Technology software in the collector’s office. The collector’s office data will be transferred to the same cloud-based system the other departments will be on. The transfer and recurring maintenance fees for the collector’s office will cost $38,781.

Frazier said the initial costs will be paid out of the county’s capital improvement funds, but maintenance costs would be split across departments using the financial software and the information technology department.

Frazier said the county will need some custom software for the treasurer’s office and the new software will be implemented in 10-12 months. “It’s a big learning curve,” he said. “I’m expecting worst case scenario will be June of next year, but the hope is that we are more in the April range.”

On-site training, expected to cost around $4,000 for two weeks, could not be scheduled until the contract was signed.

• The commission approved a resolution and held a first public hearing to apply for the Missouri Department of Transportation’s Rural Statewide Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant.

The grant focuses on funding construction projects to help pedestrians, bicyclists, and other non-motorized forms of transportation. The grant deadline is July 15 and will be awarded on Sept. 30.

The county would use the funding to connect the walking trails in the North Cape Girardeau County Park to the City of Cape Girardeau’s walking trail near the Walden Park subdivision, located behind the county park. The new sidewalks would also connect existing trails within the park and add sidewalks alongside roadways in the park.

“The sidewalks will come up to the veterans memorial, go down the avenue of flags to the main entrance road and then back around to the nature center,” Park Superintendent Bryan Sander said, adding that it gets visitors to the avenue of flags off the road and allows the county to add more flags to the area.

If awarded, the county would match 25 percent of the project. The new trail, which would be 3,300 feet in length, would be the first of three phases to connect the county’s trails to the City of Cape Girardeau’s trails.

Sander said the eventual goal would be to link the Cape Girardeau Sportsplex to Shawnee Park. “It would be a solid trail from one end of Cape to the other, once it was all completed,” he said.

• The county commission approved participating in the sales tax holiday weekend on Aug. 5-7. The sales tax weekend, which is held statewide, allows back-to-school supplies including clothing and personal computers to be sold without state or county sales tax.

• The county commission approved a bid from Piper Sandler to provide underwriting services for certificates of participation related to the Cape Girardeau County Jail expansion project. The county received six bids for the underwriting services.

• The county commission approved a $32,921 bid by Master’s Touch for printing and mailing services related to tax statements from the collector’s office. The bid, which is good for a three-year period, also includes roughly $350 in shipping costs for envelopes sent directly from the collector’s office.

Collector Barbara Gholson said the tax statements include the bills mailed in November and the January delinquent bills. She added that Master’s Touch was the lowest of five bids and has sent the county’s tax statements the past three years.

• The county commission approved a $30,000 budget adjustment for the assessor’s office to purchase two vehicles from the Missouri Highway Patrol. The assessor’s office already budgeted to purchase one vehicle this year, with the adjustment allowing the county to purchase an additional vehicle.

“The availability of vehicles have gotten so hard that we want to take advantage of the opportunity to do it now,” Assessor Bob Adams said.

Adams said the purchase will allow the county to replace both vehicles they have with more than 200,000 miles on them. The assessor’s office is expecting a budget surplus this year, so the adjustment will still come out of the assessor’s fund.

• The county commission approved a contract with the Osage Center for election judge training. County Clerk Kara Clark Summers said the Osage Center does not charge the county for the use of their facilities for the training unless there is another request for the space. The contract covers training for the August and November elections this year.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjedit@socket.net.

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