Last updated: June 02. 2014 11:10PM - 1706 Views
By - jandes@civitasmedia.com

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With a June 30 audit deadline looming, Luzerne County’s budget/finance office has called in reinforcement.

The pressure is on because the 2012 audit was released more than nine months after the home rule charter deadline and left officials hanging with its conclusion the county spent $7.4 million more than it brought in that year.

County Budget/Finance Division Head Brian Swetz said he had to retain a temporary worker from Accountemp to assist with bank reconciliations and other work because he’s down to two budget/policy analysts. The analysts didn’t have time to prepare financial paperwork for the outside auditor because they’ve been busy with reconciliations and processing payroll while the lone payroll clerk has been out for health reasons, he said.

Two positions have been vacant since the end of January: a deputy budget/finance director position last held by Donna Magni, who was terminated for undisclosed reasons, and the senior auditor position Swetz held before he was promoted to division head.

The staffing situation should improve because Swetz has hired Sue Ellen Crawford as senior auditor at $46,000, with a starting date of Friday, he said. The payroll clerk also is expected to return to work in two weeks, he said.

Swetz did not advertise for a deputy director and instead is contemplating hiring another budget analyst.

The county is paying $26.25 per hour for the Accountemp worker, who started last week, he said. The county pays no benefits and can stop the service at any time, he said. Swetz does not expect to retain the temporary employee after June.

Savings from not filling the two vacant positions will be used to cover the cost of the temporary worker, he said.

“All hands are on deck to get this audit done by the deadline,” Swetz said.

The administration blamed the lateness of the 2012 audit largely on the need to compile additional information never included in prior county audits.

Swetz said he wants the 2013 audit completed as soon as possible to document the county’s efforts to erase the 2012 shortfall, which ended up at $3.7 million after another $3.7 million carried over from 2011 was factored in. The administration has largely blamed the 2012 shortfall on unrealistic spending and revenue projections in the $122.7 million operating budget.

In an attempt to hit this year’s audit deadline, county officials requested more frequent status reports from auditor ParenteBeard LLC.

Parente representative Andrea Caladie sent an email update last week referring to delays stemming from the county’s “limited resources.” The hiring of a temporary employee and the senior accountant should help, said Caladie, who set a June 16 deadline for the county to turn over all data needed by her audit team.

Some County Council members had raised the possibility of extending the aggressive June 30 charter deadline because financial institutions generally expect prior-year audits by Sept. 30.

Councilwoman Linda McClosky Houck said the deadline extension did not gain traction because she and others want timely access to financial data.

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