County Auditor Celebrates Clean County Audit
Jefferson- Ashtabula County Auditor David Thomas released the Clean Audit Report for the Ashtabula County Audit completed by the State of Ohio Auditors.
The Audit reviewed all units of Ashtabula County Government including the core departments of the county and other entities such as Job and Family Services, the Northeast Ohio Regional Airport, Children Services, and others.
“I am very pleased of the work done during the pandemic to ensure strong financial security by our Auditor staff, the Commissioner’s Office, and County Departments”, said Auditor Thomas.
The State Auditors released a Clean Audit Report for the financials for the time period of January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020. While 2020 brought with it the challenges of working from home, employee sickness, and general changes to operations, it also involved new Federal CARES Act money given to the county and local entities.
“I’m especially proud of Ashtabula County’s clean audit for 2020. While 2020 was a difficult year for many and with it came many challenges, it was important to never lose sight of the importance of our tax dollars,” explained County Commissioner Casey Kozlowski. “To accomplish this, it requires the participation of all and to them we appreciate their hard work and commitment to all citizens.”
Ashtabula County governments received $11,590,274.16 in these CARES Act dollars throughout 2020. “It is a testament to the hard work of our offices that the State Auditors came back with a clean report on the CARES dollars received and spent by Ashtabula County last year”, explained Auditor Thomas.
A large part of the potential issues surrounding CARES money was due to the constantly changing rules and restrictions placed on the funds and the quick turnaround time to spend them within those constraints.
“We, and pretty much everyone else, were learning as we went for CARES. I spent most of my 2020 helping townships, villages, and our County departments navigate the rules and ensure compliance of the dollars”, shared Auditor Thomas.
On March 27, 2020, President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) into law, authorizing $2 trillion in aid in response to the COVID-19. These dollars were grants to local entities for items like personal protection equipment, mitigation of COVID-19, employee salaries for those responding to the crisis, grants to small businesses and nonprofits, and other similar expenses.
Local governments across Ohio and the nation faced challenges in spending their funds due to the strong limitations placed on the dollars. Many found themselves aiding first responders and purchasing equipment for police, fire, and ambulance services.
Ashtabula County government received $5,273,154.00 throughout 2020 with the deadline of December 31, 2020 to spend the funds. The second largest recipient of CARES dollars in Ashtabula County was Ashtabula City at $1,921,230.09.
For the money received by Ashtabula County government, $3,254,627.03 was spent in payroll expenditures with the remaining spent in expenses. These dollars were focused in public safety and response to the pandemic.
“The crazy thing of last year was that we had a strict deadline to spend over $5 million, we had huge needs in the community and government, and the rules changed daily over what could or could not qualify and how the money was to be spent”, stated Auditor Thomas.
Auditor Thomas praised those involved in local government finances for their quick work and problem solving resulting in the Clean Audit Report by the State Auditor’s Office.
Also new for the County Audit is Ohio State Auditor Keith Faber’s Ohio Sunshine Law program. The State Auditors reviewed several departments in 2020 for their Sunshine Law practices and found compliance within each office. Ashtabula County was awarded the 4 Star Award for this compliance, the highest rating for Sunshine Law auditing by the State of Ohio.
“We strive to conduct our county business in accordance with audit guidelines and best practices. The results of this audit show we have achieved that goal,” said Board President Commissioner Kathryn Whittington. “We are very appreciative of the efforts by county departments and staff who have worked so hard to attain this successful audit in 2020.”
Sunshine Law auditing is the portion of the State Auditor’s work which relates to proper meeting practices, information reporting, and general transparency. The 4 Star and clean Sunshine Law Award displayed the county’s excellence in information transparency.
(Pictured is County Auditor David Thomas and Auditor Fiscal Manager Paige Williamson following the successful Audit Meeting with the State Auditor’s Office.)