Montgomery County receives \'poor\' rating on state audit

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MONTGOMERY CITY – Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway gave Montgomery County a ‘poor’ rating, according to the report released Wednesday. 

The audit raised concerns that the county had misused hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales tax revenue.

In 2014, Montgomery County citizens approved a half-cent capital improvement sales text to improve the county courthouse and jail. According to the audit, however, that money has been used for “purposes not allowable under state law,” including the purchase of office equipment and electronic software.

In response, the county commission said in the audit that it would “strive to maintain a consistent definition for capital improvement purchases.”

Another issue raised by Galloway was that a $250,000 loan taken from the capital improvement fund in 2013 had not been paid back.

“We had to borrow from it. The money was not coming in. We were in dire financial straits. We’ve done the best that we could for the citizens of our county,” Presiding Commissioner Ryan Poston said.

According to the audit, “The county commission plans to repay the loan with interest now that the county is on more solid financial footing.” 

The audit also found that the county had not sufficiently reduced the property tax levy, costing taxpayers a total of $106,000. A rollback tax to offset the liability has already been calculated into the 2017 tax rate. 

But county commissioners believe this particular problem could have been avoided.

“It was actually discovered five years ago, and it wasn’t brought to our attention that our rollback calculation formula was incorrect at that time. Had it been brought to our attention, we could’ve fixed this five years ago when it wasn’t so much of an issue,” Associate Commissioner John Noltensmeyer said. 

He said it will take the county three or four years to rollback the entire amount.

The audit also raised concerns regarding controls and procedures in a number of departments, including the offices of the county assessor, public administrator, sheriff and prosecuting attorney.

“I believe wholeheartedly that we do the best that we can, and I believe that if we made a mistake, it was an honest mistake. We’ll just keep trying to do our best for the citizens going forward,” Poston said.

Galloway will return to Montgomery County next year to follow up on the concerns identified in the audit.