Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway today released an audit of Phelps County. The audit identified multiple areas for improvement, including several findings related to the county's property tax system and management.
The audit shows the county has not properly distributed some payments to local governments. The county receives a constitutionally-required annual payment from the Department of Conservation in lieu of taxes for land owned by the Missouri Conservation Commission. The Missouri Constitution requires these payments then be distributed to local governments in the county, including school districts. In Phelps County, the money received from the Department of Conservation is deposited into the county's general fund, instead of being passed along to the local governments.
"The payments received by the county are intended to be distributed to local governments, including school districts, where it could be put toward serving county citizens," Galloway said. "Because of this audit, Phelps County will begin distributing the appropriate payments and will review past records to determine how much, in total, is owed to local governments within the county."
Records show the county received $1,551 through the program in 2014. It was not immediately clear the number of years the county had been holding these payments in the general fund.
The audit also recommends the county establish procedures to ensure access to records is appropriate and limited only to necessary personnel. The current county collector has system access rights that allow changes to individual tax records, including editing and deleting of records. Because the county collector is responsible for collecting taxes, and to ensure proper segregation of duties, this position should not also have the ability to edit and delete property tax records.
Phelps County received an overall performance rating of "good." The complete report can be found here.