Harlan County Fiscal Court audit released

Published 4:00 pm Thursday, February 9, 2023

State Auditor Mike Harmon has released the audit of the financial statement of the Harlan County Fiscal Court for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2022.

Kentucky law requires annual audits of county fiscal courts.

Auditing standards require the auditor’s letter to communicate whether the financial statement presents fairly the receipts, disbursements, and changes in fund balances of the Harlan County Fiscal Court in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America. The fiscal court’s financial statement did not follow this format. However, the fiscal court’s financial statement is fairly presented in conformity with the regulatory basis of accounting, which is an acceptable reporting methodology. This reporting methodology is followed for 116 of 120 fiscal court audits in Kentucky.

As part of the audit process, the auditor must comment on noncompliance with laws, regulations, contracts, and grants. The auditor must also comment on material weaknesses involving internal control over financial operations and reporting.

The audit contains the following comment:

The Harlan County Fiscal Court does not have sufficient internal controls over waste removal collections: This is a repeat finding and was included in the prior year audit report as Finding 2021-001. The Harlan County Fiscal Court has failed to implement controls to ensure compliance with requirements of the Solid Waste Franchise Renewal Agreement. The following controls were not in place for Fiscal Year 2022:

• The fiscal court does not have written agreements with districts for garbage collections.

• The fiscal court does not receive delinquent lists for all outstanding collections.

• The fiscal court does not receive sufficient documentation of garbage fees collected by all the utility districts.

As of June 30, 2022, the fiscal court is aware of at least $663,866 in accounts receivables for collection of residential and commercial solid waste throughout Harlan County. Utility districts do not provide monthly collection reports or lists of delinquent residents to the fiscal court. As such, the fiscal court cannot verify the amount of gross residential garbage removal fees collected by the districts or the amount of garbage removal fees remitted to the fiscal court. The lack of delinquent lists prevents the fiscal court from effectively monitoring uncollected revenues. Also, the fiscal court cannot provide a listing of delinquent residential customers to the company with the solid waste franchise.

The Harlan County Fiscal Court collects fees for garbage collections as allowed by KRS 109.056(2) and has chosen to collect these fees under the provisions of KRS 109.056(3). KRS 109.056(3) states the fiscal court “may enter into an agreement with other utilities either public or private to collect such charges.” Good internal controls require these agreements be in writing to provide all parties with the terms of the agreements. These written agreements should also include the supporting documentation to be provided to the fiscal court by third parties for fees collected and delinquent. In addition, the Solid Waste Franchise Renewal Agreement requires the fiscal court to provide quarterly to the company with the solid waste franchise a list of residential customers with delinquent accounts that are subject to having pickup services terminated.

It is recommend the fiscal court enter into written agreements with the utility districts detailing recordkeeping requirements for waste collections, monthly financial reports, and delinquent listings. When procedures are implemented to create a list of delinquent customers, the fiscal court should provide the listing to the county attorney for potential collection efforts and the company with the solid waste franchise for potential termination of services, as necessary.

County judge-executive’s response: “From January 2015 through June 30, 2022, over $10 million has been paid to the fiscal court for garbage service. From the reports that we receive from the districts, this places the county at over a 90% collection rate. We realize we can’t truly calculate the collection rate with the information we receive, but we believe this to be in line with other collection services and consider it to be a good collection rate and a tremendous improvement from several years ago when it was below 50%. The court has worked with the County Attorney and the districts to prepare a written agreement and enter into a contract with all districts for garbage collections. Some districts have signed and returned the agreement, while some have not. The court has also been working with the County’s District Court in resolving delinquent matters and have been successful in the cases that have been presented to date.”