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Audit results reviewed

While a full, printed copy of their findings is still being assembled, state auditors met with Lawrence County Commissioners Monday to let them know what they can expect in the performance audit of county finances when it is released.

The meeting with county commissioners was behind closed doors. An exemption in the state open meetings law allows such executive sessions for audit meetings.

Commission President Doug Malone said auditors have made few recommendations for changes to help control costs and much of what they said at this point was vague, but they did make some general observations about why the county is in financial straits and where the county’s few dollars are going.

“They said the money coming in is well below what we need to operate efficiently,” Malone said. “And they said there were no quick fixes.”

Some of the items auditors mentioned were already well-known to local officials: Lawrence County’s real estate tax rate, even with its school levies, is still considerably below tax rates in other counties.

Malone said senior audit manager Michael Day told commissioners one of their biggest expenses was health insurance, something that was not a surprise to local officials.

“I think we’ll probably put a committee together to see what we can come up with,” Malone said. He added that auditors indicated they thought the merit system chargeback for workers’ compensations costs that was recently instituted was a good idea.

Malone said auditors also said there needs to be greater communication between the various offices.

Commissioner Jason Stephens said when the final audit is released, he hoped local officials would view it “not as an effort to point fingers. This is an effort to find out how we can get better,” he said. “This is not an audit to show that somebody was doing something wrong. It’s to help us improve. It’s an outside look at the areas we need to improve in.”

Malone said he thought the final audit could be ready within a month.