Salt Lake County’s financial records were in good order in 2011, outside auditors told the County Council on Tuesday.
Orem-based Squire & Co.’s audit of the county’s numerous financial statements and its compliance with rules managing the use of federal and state funds in county-operated programs endorsed the government’s practices “without qualification” and found no major deficiencies, said CPA Ray Bartholomew.
The worst the audit could find: Expenditures in the Zoo, Arts and Parks (ZAP) program exceeded the yearly budget by $225,000, or 1.6 percent.
“That was a quite pleasant problem to have,” responded county financial officer Lance Brown, explaining the county entered a “Catch-22” situation of having to comply with diametrically opposed laws when last year’s sales tax receipts exceeded projections.
To avoid running afoul of the auditors’ need for balanced budgets, Brown said the county would have to violate another law that requires additional sales tax to be distributed among the arts organizations, parks and zoological groups that receive those tax funds. The choice was an easy one, he suggested — get the extra money out to groups that could put it to good use.
The auditors came up with a few little things as they parsed through line items of the $600 million-plus budget.
Most were timing issues. Recognize business licenses as revenue sources in the year the license goes into effect. Record a capital lease in the period when equipment was received. Be clearer on accounting in the fund that includes county contributions to employee benefits.
With all of its belt-tightening since the recession began four years, the county would be well advised to invest at least $2 million into that account to keep it whole, said county Chief Financial Officer Darrin Casper.
That concerned Councilman Richard Snelgrove, who wondered whether the county was on the same path toward financial troubles as Stockton, Calif., which declared bankruptcy in June. “So we’re going down the same road as cities that got into trouble?” he said.
Not at all, said Casper. “We have a very small liability compared to other counties.”