The County Line: Auditor's office balances expenses, revenue in county budget

Monday, December 20, 2010
County Auditor David Ludwig works at his desk Dec. 13 at the County Office Building in Jackson. (Kristin Eberts)

As the county's financial watchdog, Cape Girardeau County Auditor David Ludwig said his office is responsible for compiling the budget and presenting it to the county commission.

"That's organizing the budgets from 51 different departments and agencies," he said. "We compile that into an annual budget for the commissioners so that they can obtain an idea of what the budget expenditures will be for the new year, what the anticipated revenue will be for the new year."

The budgeting process starts in August, he said, with a goal of getting a preliminary budget to commissioners by the end of November.

The auditor's office also monitors sales tax revenue closely during the last three months of the year, hoping for a good report.

"We are always encouraged if we have more sales tax come in," he said.

Some circumstances are always beyond the county's control, Ludwig said, but the office tries to be prepared.

"A lot of times you don't know what kinds of expenses you're going to have -- fuel costs, gravel, extra personnel, court cases that come in. It's just an abundance of questions," he said. "You hope you get close to understanding what's going to happen."

Ludwig said creating a budget to anticipate expenses and revenue is a balancing act.

"You're really trying to juggle a lot of different figures, trying to figure out where all the revenue is going to come from and what, if any, you could put a lid on the expenses," he said.

Ludwig said the county maintains a conservative approach to its spending, which helps departments stay within their budgets. The county is about 2 percent ahead on budgeted revenue for the year, and he predicts the county will carry the surplus into the next year.

As a first-class county, Cape Girardeau County receives an annual outside audit. Ludwig's department assists with that by providing information and implementing any recommendations, if necessary. The office maintains up-to-date documentation on purchase orders, disbursements and other financial transactions to provide the county and public with peace of mind taxpayer money is being spent and managed judiciously.

"We have to have a very good audit trail. We've received very good reports from our outside auditors," he said. "A lot of times they have new recommendations on how to do things, and we're very receptive to the outside, independent auditors."

The office also performs periodic internal audits, but some county agencies and departments are required by their bylaws to receive additional outside audits.

Ludwig will leave office at the end of the year and will be replaced by Pete Frazier. The Cape Girardeau County auditor manages a two-member staff.

The office is created under Chapter 55 of Missouri State Statutes. The 2010 budget from county revenue for 2010 was $186,643.

cbartholomew@semissourian.com

243-8600

Pertinent Address:

1 Barton Square, Jackson, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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