Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway has released an audit of the government of Wayne County, located in Southeast Missouri. The county received an overall performance rating of poor with serious concerns related to the county's financial condition.
During the county's most recent audit, released in 2013, the general revenue fund was found to be in poor financial condition, with at least $430,000 owed to the Special Road and Bridge Fund. That amount has continued to grow, and the general fund now owes more than $470,000 to the Special Road and Bridge Fund, which is used to pay for critical infrastructure and repair projects throughout the county.
In an effort to improve the county's financial condition, voters passed a half-cent general sales tax increase in 2012, but its effect has been limited because the sales tax came with a requirement that property taxes be reduced.
Another recurring finding from previous audits, the prosecuting attorney frequently reduces charges on traffic tickets in exchange for donations to the county's Special Law Enforcement Fund, without statutory authority. These donation amounts range from $50 to $300, totaling about $45,000 in 2015.
The sheriff's office keeps a bank account outside the county treasury, which is not authorized by law. The account is used for proceeds from a US Department of Justice Equitable Sharing Program and was spent on ammunition, bullet proof vests and a cargo kennel for the county's drug dog.
The county collector's financial activities are not adequately reviewed by the county clerk or the county commission, which raises concerns that errors are less likely to be identified and corrected. The county clerk does not keep an account book that summarizes property tax charges, transactions and changes. This would help ensure taxes were charged and credited accurately, and could also be used to verify the county collector's annual settlements, effectively establishing a system of checks and balances in the property tax system.
The county received an overall performance rating of poor, which means auditors will return for a follow-up review. The complete audit report for Wayne County is available here.