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Auditor helping 1,400 small governments save money

Small government bodies such as libraries, planning commissions and tiny villages will save some of their public dollars under a new program that drastically cuts the costs of state-mandated audits.

Since the program was launched in December, 11 governments in this region have cut the cost of their audits by an average of 75 percent. Statewide, 34 governments have saved a total of $59,147.

While this may not be a lot of money in the big scheme of things, cutting the cost of a $3,100 audit for an entity such as a cemetery with a $30,000 budget can make a big difference, said Auditor of State Dave Yost in an interview last week.

“You can’t run a business with 10 percent of your gross revenues going to an audit. That’s a ridiculous amount of overhead,” Yost said.

The program, in essence, offers scaled-down audits for governments with budgets of less than $5 million. This accounts for 1,400 of the 5,700 Ohio public offices in Ohio that require state audits by law.

But, we asked Yost, doesn’t this mean less oversight? The I-Team has seen its share of small villages and townships get into trouble.

Yost responded that the most important parts of the audit are still there, including a close look at the checkbook to make sure the money is accounted for, which doesn’t have to be as thorough since there’s often only one fund.

Larger entities need more complex analysis, he said, including spending more time on site.

“If you only have one shell, it’s hard to play a shell game,” he said.

Base maintains golf course amid cuts

Base officials know non-golfers may get a little teed off by the Air Force’s recent award of $34,200 to aerate the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base golf courses at the same time thousands of employees are facing furloughs. They say it’s a misunderstanding.

“It’s apples and oranges,” countered base spokesman Daryl Mayer in an interview with the I-Team last week. “(Golf course) money can’t be used to pay for our operating and maintenance budget.

“The golf course has to pay for itself.”

The golf course charges greens fees (which incidentally are based on rank so higher-ranked officers pay more than enlisted airmen). Military members and their families and guests played 65,000 rounds of golf on the base last year, leaving it with a $300,000 golf profit.

That money has to go to the Force Support Squadron.

“Ultimately, all the Force Support Squad activities on base are for the airmen and their families, for recreation, whether it’s fitness or golf or the bowling alley. We have a library and fitness centers.” Mayer said. “It’s all to take care of the airmen and make them well rounded.”

The $34,200 contract — awarded in April to a company out of St. Henry, Ohio — will cover spring and fall aeration of the greens every year for the next four years. It’s part of the routine maintenance on the base’s two 18-hole courses, a 9-hole course and six practice greens.

Crime doesn’t pay

Defrauding the state’s taxpayer-funded child care program is a booming industry — the I-Team reported on dozens of open fraud investigations in the fall — but anyone looking to get on board should heed the lesson learned by Nekosha James-Mitchell:

Prison is no fun.

James-Mitchell of Lima was convicted last year of racketeering and theft, among other charges, for billing the government for providing $27,000 worth of nonexistent care for 17 children. Another 14 people, including parents and child care center workers, have since pleaded guilty to various crimes for their roles in the scheme.

The Lima News recently reported that James-Mitchell was given early release and ordered to repay $31,000 in restitution. She told the judge she would toe the line because she didn’t want to go back to prison.

The Lima News said she broke down as she recalled her time behind bars.

“When I arrived at (prison), I was stripped of everything but my heart,” James-Mitchell said. “Prison has been a very hostile and disgracing and most uncomfortable place I’ve ever been. It’s not where I want to spend another day of my life.”

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