‘We need this to be completed:’ Spencer still waiting on audit Wednesday afternoon

Published 12:08 am Thursday, July 14, 2022

SPENCER — Spencer officials say the town expected to receive its audit report on Tuesday morning, but as of Wednesday the documents are still in limbo.

The town board approved a fourth contract extension with R.H. CPAs Tuesday evening, a step it would have had to take anyway as the process went well past the last deadline established in May. Audit reports are normally completed by the end of October and the report is now eight months behind schedule.

Town Budget Officer John Sofley told the board he has been in conversation with R.H. and the financial statements were balanced, but on Tuesday morning he was told the auditor handling the town’s report was out sick. Town Manager Peter Franzese said the town was told he was still out sick on Wednesday, and that afternoon Franzese met with Sofley to see if the report could be sent by someone else at the firm.

“We are beyond the timeframe of simply being understanding about it,” Franzese told the Post. “We need this to be completed.”

Franzese noted the town is approaching its next audit cycle for the fiscal year that just ended and he expects a contract as well as discussion on the issue during the board’s August meeting.

The first extension at the beginning of the year was attributed to COVID-19.

The second delay was attributed to creating an electronic balance that reconciles with the town’s 2020 audited financial statements and the town was told a draft would be sent to Sofley “within the next week or so.” That was in March.

The third extension approved on May 10 came with similar reasons and a promise to deliver a draft report that week. The issue has been attributed to prior audits being performed on paper rather than electronically.

“The issues have been some of the underlying data on the spreadsheets involved,” Franzese said.

Two months later, Sofley said he was in contact with the firm, the accounts were reconciled, but the report was not delivered Tuesday morning.

Spencer Mayor Johnathan Williams said everyone was surprised at the announcement Tuesday the audit had still not been received. It was met with a mix of head shaking, eye rolls and audible scoffs from the board. Williams said at this point the delays are almost comical.

“Let me put it like this,” Williams said. “Whoever our auditor is for this most recent fiscal year, when it comes time to have that audit contract, I want to be sure that, whoever that firm is, is more responsive and timely than our current experience.”

Williams said the town will not tolerate delays like this for another year. He said switching auditors and changing from performing an audit by hand to the electronic model was a big switch and needed to happen for the town, but it has taken too long.

“There were reasons for it at the beginning,” Williams said. “Now I’m not convinced the reasons for the delay are satisfactory.”

Williams said he has continued to get letters from the Local Government Commission about the issue and Franzese said with all the good projects happening in Spencer this is not an issue they want to deal with.

“In reality I know it’s not our doing, it’s in the hands of a CPA firm, but in our quest to be a model small town for North Carolina we need to be meeting deadlines for state requirements,” Williams said. “It’s important to me.”

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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