Glades County’s financials complicated by COVID-19

MOORE HAVEN — The Glades County Board of Commissioners received a mixed financial report from its accounting firm CliftonLarsonAllen LLP during the regular meeting Tuesday, July 14.

Firm Principal Christopher Kessler appeared to present the report and discuss its findings.

This year there was good news and not-so-good news. While Glades County’s “total net position” decreased by about $1.1 million over fiscal year 2019 (ending Sept. 30), “the net position of our business-type activities increased by approximately $116,000 and net position of our governmental activities decreased by approximately $1.2 million.” At the end of the fiscal year, the unassigned fund balance for the general fund was about $7.2 million, 36% of total general fund expenditures.

Kessler told the commissioners, “You’re in a positive position this year … and a lot of that came from savings on personnel costs,” but he also noted that the big elephant in the room is the unknown costs from “subsequent events related to the COVID-19 impact.” He said, “Nobody knows what those impacts are going to be … nobody knows the number” for total costs — or, as yet, for total grant funding or potential federal reimbursements. He said a great number of federal, state and private grant programs are now becoming available due to the COVID pandemic and that meticulous documentation is going to be critical for governments such as counties going forward.

“Subsequent to year-end,” the 109-page financial report explains, “the World Health Organization declared the spread of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) a worldwide pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic is having significant effects on global markets, supply chains, businesses and communities. Specific to the county, COVID-19 may impact various parts of its 2020 operations and financial results including, but not limited to, costs for emergency preparedness and shortages of personnel. Management believes the county is taking appropriate actions to mitigate the negative impact. However, the full impact of COVID-19 is unknown and cannot be reasonably estimated as these events occurred subsequent to year-end and are still developing.”

The not-so-good part of the report concerned documentation of expenses for the SHIP Program (State Housing Incentives Partnership), but “nothing we found indicated mismanagement or anything like that,” Kessler said. Rather, he explained: “We were unable to determine that the SHIP program was in compliance … It’s a very complex program, not an easy state program to administer, with lots of rules and regulations, lots of applications and processes.” He said the firm found what they termed “lack of documentation on some issues such as income verification, encumbered funding, etc.”

Mainly that stems from a lack of written policy and procedure, he said, which should include a checklist of requirements that is compiled by the SHIP office, checked through financial review processes and then double-checked by the county manager. Kessler told the commissioners, “We talked through this with management, and the county has completed their corrective action plans.” All this led to SHIP Coordinator Cindy Ricker giving a somewhat defensive response about how time crunches happen since SHIP funding must be expended in a certain time. But the accounting firm representatives and commissioners hastened to assure her that no one was questioning or criticizing her work.

“Come up with a written standard operating procedure, create a written policy including even a checklist,” he advised the commissioners. “With all the new funding sources, what’s most important is that you keep as detailed records and documentation as possible,” Kessler said.

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