Sales tax is down for the month but up for the year, according to Stone County Treasurer Kristi Stephens.
Presiding Commissioner Dennis Wood countered that statement at a department head meeting last week saying, "General revenue is up 4% which is good for all of us."
Over 990 certified letters have been sent out to delinquent taxpayers notifying them of the pending sale of their property, according to Stone County Collector Vicki May. "That's twice what we sent out last year," she said.
Wood told county leaders the Use Tax is down 58% from last year. Speculation is that the instillation of Silver Dollar City's new multi-million dollar roller coaster added to last years coffers. "Departments all look to be in pretty good shape," said Wood.
Stone County Clerk Judy Berkstresser told those assembled that she has worked diligently with Standard and Poor's to get the county's annual appropriation rating upgraded two notches from A- to A+.
The new rating could garner the county a quarter percent in interest on future bonds the county might take out for future expansion or other projects if the rating is kept. "It would mean a savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayers money," said Berkstresser. Currently, the county owes about $3 million in outstanding debt.
Wood said an expansion of the county's Judicial and Law Center "will have to be addressed in the next three to four years."
Sheriff Doug Rader says an explosion of female inmates in the county jail, which was designed to house 66 inmates but held 68 last week, has led to some remodeling of the jail. "We have so many female inmates we had to make a bigger pod and build a wall so female and male inmates won't be exposing themselves to each other," he said.
"I wanted to bring something else up since we're talking about excellence," Berkstresser said.
Berkstresser said she was contacted by a "citizen" after the county published its financial statement, which was prepared by commission assistant Denise Dickens and approved by commissioners, in March. She said the citizen was concerned about some grammatical and duplicate errors they found in the report and wondered if the totals on the report were correct.
"I found over 500 [errors]," she said.
"I take full responsibility for the report," said Wood. "You do not need to blame or say any other names, it's from the commission."
Berkstresser alleged that state statutes had been broken because the report sent to the state auditor's office contained errors. She said information concerning interest on loans and rates on bonds had been omitted from the report.
A former state auditor employee, who reviewed the report at Berkstresser's request, expressed concerns "over duplication and the misspelled words and the overall organization of the report," she said. "They were concerned and [said] if they had been the auditor that they possibly would have written their concerns up on this." She said her office took the data and reworked the report to fall within state statutes and presented the corrected report to commissioners.
Wood then asked the outgoing County Clerk if there were any inaccuracies in the spending money totals. "We found some," Berkstresser replied.
"I'd like to see the perfect examples of where it's misrepresented," Wood said. Berkstresser did not have the correct figures on hand and told Wood, "I'll get with you later."
"I resent that you did not talk to us in advance," Wood said. "You didn't come to the commission--you didn't come to anybody. You made a grand entrance today. I resent that you brought that today without first consulting with us and trying to work it out so that we can get this thing done."
"My whole purpose for this was to get us ahead of excellence," Berkstresser said. "We did create a new format--we did not correct what was in here. We did not take the time to correct the numbers, all we used was what the commission published and put it in the correct format."
Wood fired back. "The county is audited by the state and our own auditors and this has never come up in an audit before to my knowledge. We will be delving into this and report back to the public."
"I did not plan this as an attack," said Berkstresser. "I just believe that our county is a top notch county. I believe that everything should be of excellence that leaves our offices...especially things that are published. "
Wood reminded Berkstresser that the county holds work sessions every Tuesday from 9 - 10 a.m. "You could have come in and talked about it to us rather than doing it in the manner you've done."
"Again," said Wood, "audits have never ever criticized us in anyway for any of these reports."