County may bring back internal auditor

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 17, 2013

SALISBURY — The Rowan County Personnel Board voted Wednesday to bring some relief to the finance department by hiring an internal auditor and accountant.
Finance Director Leslie Heidrick requested that the county unfreeze the position in the current budget. She told County Manager Gary Page that her staff badly needs help to prepare for the annual budget and external audit.
County commissioners also said they will talk about adding a separate assistant county manager position during their budget discussions.
The personnel board is essentially a subcommittee of the Board of Commissioners, including the chairman and vice chairman as voting members. Non-voting members are County Manager Gary Page, Human Resources Director Darlene Boling and Board Clerk Carolyn Athey.
Chairman Jim Sides and Vice Chairman Craig Pierce both voted to approve Heidrick’s request, which will come before the full Board of Commissioners at an upcoming meeting.
In the county’s past two financial audit reports, Martin, Starnes and Associates has recommended that it hire an internal auditor. This person would look into issues with money collection and make sure that funds are flowing properly within the county.
The county once employed a part-time internal auditor, but Page said the position was eliminated in 2010-11 when each department was asked to cut its budget by 5 percent.
“This position was talked about a year ago,” Sides said. “I wanted it to be an assistant county manager and auditor position that would combine the two. They would spend half of the time working with Gary on projects and half of the time working in finance.”
But county commissioners couldn’t agree in a June workshop on whether those duties should be combined. They decided to leave the internal auditor position in the 2012-13 budget, as recommended by Page, but to freeze it until they decided what to do with it.
“I’m convinced, based on what I’ve gathered and the material I’ve read from talking to Leslie, that we need to go ahead and make this position official as an auditor’s position and allocate them entirely to finance,” Sides said.
He said commissioners will talk about a possible assistant county manager separately, during their budget talks.
Page said the new full-time position would be an accountant in the finance department who also performs the duties of an internal auditor.
Sides said finance staff members have had to work an equivalent of $75,000 in overtime to handle the department’s workload with several recent projects. The county also pays nearly $30,000 to a local accounting firm, Potter and Company, for internal auditing services.
Pierce asked when Sides would want to make the new hire effective, and he answered, “As soon as possible.”
“If they bring somebody new in, there’s going to be a little bit of training, and they’re ready to start on the budget,” Sides said. “She needs the help now.”
Also at Wednesday’s meeting, the personnel board approved a salary increase, effective immediately, for the food services supervisor at the Rowan County Detention Center.
Sheriff Kevin Auten requested a 10 percent increase, saying the head cook does a great job and has dealt with a larger workload in the past several years.
But Pierce and Sides voted for a 5 percent increase. They said all county employees have already gotten a 1.5 to 2.5 percent raise based on their years of service. At a time when there isn’t money in the budget to give everyone a raise who deserves one, they said, they’re more comfortable with a smaller percentage.
In addition, the board considered a request from Library Director Jeff Hall for a reorganization and reclassification.
Hall asked to reclassify a library manager position as an assistant library director, with a corresponding increase in pay. To fund this change, the library would cut a part-time position that is currently vacant.
Sides and Pierce said they would rather wait on the request until it is submitted as an expansion item in the next budget.

Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.