While 2020 was unusual in gathering the documents needed, the annual review of Wadena County’s finances included a clean audit, as noted by Bob Johnson of the Minnesota State Auditor office on Jan. 19.
Johnson discussed four inefficiencies found in the audit process including segregation of financial duties. The inefficiency had been removed for several years after practices such as surprise department audits were occurring. County auditor-treasurer Heather Olson said she asked for the finding to be included again with issues in some of the smaller departments. She hopes the note will remind departments about the importance of having different people complete the duties and plans to restart surprise visits.
The eligibility testing of the Medical Assistance Program showed six out of 80 cases not having matching documentation. People are receiving only the benefits they are supposed to, though documentation needs to be consistent so benefits go to the correct people, as Johnson said. For additional program paperwork required, the audit recommends supervisors reviewing and documenting quarterly reports.
Donations to the Sheriff’s Department and Friendly Rider were also noted as not having documentation approved by the board. Minnesota statutes require the board to approve donations. A reminder will again be shared with departments.
The state auditor recommends having unrestricted balances for five months of operating expenses and 35-50% of revenues. As of Dec. 31, 2019 Wadena County’s general and special revenue funds had 4.62 months and 37% of revenue.
The county’s largest sources of revenue are taxes and intergovernmental aid with steady increases in taxes over the past five years, which taxpayers prefer over a large increase in one year, as Johnson said.
The road and bridge fund fluctuates significantly year to year based on projects completed, when the revenue is received for the projects and when the funds are spent, which may not be in the same year. For example, project expenditures were in 2018 though funds for the projects came in 2019.
The social services fund has been decreasing over the last five years with balances available for 3.5 months and 32% of revenue. Johnson recommended increasing the levy or having fund transfers. Johnson said “overall the county’s still in good shape.”
Ordinance 6 returns
The defining of a “regularly established” event and the size of the event continued to be the questions commissioners had about Ordinance 6. The ordinance is for large assemblies at shows and exhibitions and excludes incorporated municipalities.
Commissioner Murlyn Kreklau revisited the topic after hearing from many constituents on this topic as he was campaigning. He reviewed the history of the ordinance, which was passed in 1978 and amended in 1987.
The topic originally returned in 2019 when a music festival hoped to hold events in Wadena County with the number of people growing each year. In November 2019, commissioners amended the ordinance to have fencing required around “the performance or assembly areas and adjacent vendors” and to have the ordinance take effect on Jan. 1, 2020.
Throughout 2020, the ordinance was discussed in relation to the Nimrod Bull Bash, which is a three-day bull riding competition on Labor Day weekend at the Meech farm. Kreklau said the ordinance places “an undue hardship” on the Meeches and that the event should not close due to the county. He recommended events in existence for at least five years before Dec. 31, 2019 be exempt. The Bull Bash started in 2002.
Commissioner Jon Kangas agreed that an event held for five or more years is a good threshold for a “regularly established” event. The exempt events would still be following the state requirements such as food and liquor licenses.
The number of requirements in the ordinance was another part Kreklau noted as a lot of time and costs. Commissioner Bill Stearns suggested increasing the number of attendees for new events since people then expect time and costs involved for a large event. The cost would be considered negligible as the event is built up over the years.
The increased number of attendees would be per day with the ideas of 7,500 or 10,000. Troy Meech said the Bull Bash is popular on Saturday nights with the largest number of people at 3,000 in one day from 2014-19.
With the commissioners’ goal of making the process easy, the ordinance will be reviewed by the ordinance committee and returned to the board with ideas. After a public hearing again, the commissioners will make a decision.
The board approved:
The service agreement with Guardian RFID for the Wadena County Sheriff ’s Department for four years.
Accepting a $100 donation from Granite Electronics for the drone program.
The board also had a closed session on negotiation strategies for labor contracts.