News Column

Audit shows improvement in Savannah

July 16, 2014

By Marshall White, St. Joseph News-Press, Mo.



July 16--SAVANNAH, Mo. -- State Auditor Tom Schweich released a follow-up audit report showing that Savannah continues to improve on its bookkeeping practices.

Water bonds and monthly billing were part of the audit's original focus.The city hired Independent Public Advisors, a Kansas City firm, to review and prepare financial studies on the water rates and debt issues. The first study was presented to the council in May by Tionna Pooler, president of Independent Public Advisors, and the company is on track to provide another report to assist the city in preparing its 2015 budget. The city runs on an Oct.1 to Sept. 30 fiscal year.

The auditor's office continues to recommend obtaining a formal water and sewer rate study from a professional engineer to ensure sufficient future rates.

Mr. Schweich pushed for more detailed delinquent utility account reports and aggressive collection efforts.

In June as part of this effort to collect water bills, the city disconnected 34 meters. The city administrator reviews a cutoff register every month before meters are disconnected. This week, all but five households have paid their debts and the reconnect fee of $50 or $100.

The city had tried several professional companies in its effort to collect past due bills, without much success.

"It didn't seem logical to hire another company," said Beth Kar, the city clerk.

So, Emily Bauman, the city attorney, has agreed to handle delinquent accounts.

Also, individuals who leave the area and move back at a later date can expect to have to pay any money still owed before they can get a new water hookup, Mrs. Kar said.

Auditors found what they labeled as "significant weaknesses in golf course controls, policies and procedures. The city has begun working with a golf advisory committee reviewing problem areas. Efforts are under way to improve financial reporting and all fees and prices for golf products and services have been reviewed and approved at a June meeting.

Also, employees are doing monthly inventories of the golf store items, Mrs. Kar said.

Finally, the auditor cited numerous Sunshine Law violations. Mrs. Bauman, the city attorney, has begun conducting advisory meetings to inform city employees, city board members and City Council members on the open records laws and regulations.

Marshall White can be reached at marshall.white@newspressnow.com.

Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPWhite.

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(c)2014 St. Joseph News-Press (St. Joseph, Mo.)

Visit the St. Joseph News-Press (St. Joseph, Mo.) at www.newspressnow.com/index.html

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Source: St. Joseph News-Press (MO)


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