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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX – The Village of Colfax was $92,889 under-budget for 2020, although public works was $2,032 over-budget.
The only expenditure that was over the 2020 budgeted amount was public works at $2,000, but general government expenditures were under-budget by $10,000, noted Joe Harrison of Bauman Associates during the audit report given to the Colfax Village Board at the September 13 meeting.
Harrison said he assumed that if there were any areas in the budget that were going to significantly go over-budget, the village board would have taken action to amend the budget.
In the past, there have been areas where the expenditures have gone significantly over-budget, and when that happens, the village board must amend the budget, he said.
In 2020, general government was budgeted at $217,264, but the actual expenditures were $206,924, leaving a surplus of $10,340, according to the audit report.
Public safety was budgeted at $355,963 in 2020, with the actual expenditure being $327,604, leaving a surplus of $28,359.
Public works was budgeted at $252,024 while the actual expenditure was $254,056, leaving a deficit of $2,032.
Health and human services was budgeted at $25,289 for 2020 while the actual expenditure was $15,137, leaving a surplus of $10,152.
Culture, recreation and education was budgeted at $201,984, and the actual expenditure was $200,068, leaving a surplus of $1,916.
Capital outlay was budgeted at $66,805 while the actual expenditure was $22,651, leaving a surplus of $44,154.
Debt service, for principal and interest in 2020, was $80,910.
Total revenues for 2020 were $24,466 over the budgeted amount of $1,028,147.
The audit for 2020 was unique in that everything was done 100 percent remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Harrison said.
In spite of conducting the audit with the auditors not actually being in the clerk-treasurer’s office, “it went smoothly,” he said.
Still, even without having any difficulties in performing the audit, “we are hoping to use a hybrid approach in the future,” Harrison said.
“Lynn and Sheila were awesome to work with,” he added.
Conducting the audit remotely “was maybe more labor-intensive for the village,” said Lynn Niggemann, village administrator-clerk-treasurer.
Sheila Riemer is the village’s deputy clerk-treasurer.
“It’s definitely a goal to be on-site for part of the audit,” Harrison said.
When the auditors are in the office in-person, there is “more clarity” because the auditors can ask for documents at the moment they need them instead of waiting for them to be sent, Niggemann said.
Segregation of duties
As is the case every year, one of the deficiencies the auditors noted is a lack of segregation of accounting duties.
Due to the size of the office staff, it is impossible for Colfax to segregate duties, Harrison said.
Fortune 500 companies have whole departments that do nothing but accounts payable and have no access to other parts of the accounting process, he said.
In just about every municipality of this size, there are not enough employees to segregate duties, Harrison said.
Since the segregation of duties is not possible, the Colfax Village Board must do more monitoring of the budget and the accounts payable than would be needed in the City of Eau Claire or the City of Milwaukee, he said.
Another comment related to accounting standards.
Accounting standards change every year, but there is no cost benefit to the village to pay for Lynn to complete all of the necessary training that would be needed to keep up with the changes, Harrison said.
The village’s financial statements are fairly represented, and “there’s no slippage in how the (books) are being kept,” he said.
The change in the general fund balance from 2019 to 2020 is a net loss of $12,719, Harrison said.
The general fund balance, which is money that is unassigned and undesignated for any purpose, was $461,494 on December 31, 2020, according to the audit report.
The change in the fund balance includes the Colfax Rescue Squad, the Community Development Block Grant, and the new solid waste and recycling program, Harrison said.
The total restricted fund balance is $412,434. Amounts in the restricted funds can only be used for the purpose to which they have been designated.
Restricted fund balances include:
• Future CDBG grant program expenditures – $31,311.
• Perpetual care of Colfax Evergreen Cemetery – $28,500.
• Future library operations – $18,558.
• Future improvements of the village hall – $77,912.
• Donations reserved for the village hall elevator project – $23,914.
• Future expenditures for Tax Increment Finance District 3 – $168,719.
• Future TIF4 expenditures – $45,789.
• Debt service expenditures – $17,731.
The total for assigned fund balances is $504,892.
Assigned fund balances include:
• Future major equipment replacement in various departments – $235,127.
• Spreading garden at the cemetery – $5,863.
• Library operations – $17,830.
• Street improvements – $140,966.
• Holiday decorations – $3,229.
• Economic development – $20,000.
• Future improvements to the village hall – $81,877.
Sewer and water
The village’s water utility had total operating revenues of $266,065 for 2020, and total operating expenses of $194,726, leaving an operating income of $71,339.
The village’s sewer utility had total operating revenues of $216,528 and total operating expenses of $173,954, leaving operating income of $42,574.
The change in net position for the water utility was an increase of $35,358.
The change in net position for the sewer utility was an increase of $20,408.
A few years ago, one of the auditors asked the village board if anyone was worried about fraud, said Gary Stene, village trustee.
Stene noted that he had been village president when the question had been asked.
Stene said that he was not worried about fraud because the Colfax Village Board goes through every bill twice a month.
Is it okay to have that confidence? he asked.
Yes, it is all right to have that confidence, Harrison said.
It also is important for the village board to have a routine risk assessment and to think about where something could go wrong, he said.
“I feel we are pretty transparent … it would be hard to take advantage of the village board. I feel confident,” Stene said.
“We have good relationships with the employees, and we have good employees,” he said.
In other business, the Colfax Village Board:
• Approved bartender operator’s licenses for Stacy Norris (Viking Bowl) and Robert Morrill (Express Mart).
• Approved making a $50 donation to the Zor Tin Lizzies.
• Took no action on participating in the Dunn County Housing study since there is already housing development in Colfax.
• Approved appointing Jody Albricht, village president, as the village’s representative for the DC Economic Development Corp.
• Learned that Mike Buchner would like to resign from the Colfax Plan Commission and that a community member at-large is needed for the plan commission.