Montgomery County overtaxes residents by $89,000 in recent audit

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A report released by State Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick shows that Montgomery County officials have made improvements in several areas of county government since a 2016 audit rated the county as “poor.” However, the report also highlights areas where the county still needs to improve. The latest audit awards the county a “fair” rating and reveals that the county overtaxed its residents by approximately $89,000 in 2022. This overtaxation occurred because the County Clerk reported incorrect assessed valuation totals to the State Auditor’s Office.

Auditor Fitzpatrick stated, “It is encouraging to see that county officials have made significant improvements since the 2016 audit, which found the county was inappropriately spending revenue generated by a voter-approved sales tax. The county has taken the findings from the previous audit seriously and enacted policies to prevent most of these issues from recurring. However, the error in 2022, resulting in residents being overtaxed by $89,000, is unacceptable. Even one dollar of over-taxation is too much, as taxpayers deserve to keep those funds.”

He added, “I appreciate that county officials reached out to my office to resolve the issue and are working to correct the overcharges.”

In 2022, the Montgomery County Clerk reported an assessed valuation total of approximately $239 million, rather than the actual valuation of approximately $279 million, when reporting the tax rate ceiling for the road and bridge tax levy to the State Auditor’s Office. This incorrect data led to a certified tax rate ceiling that was higher than warranted, causing the county to assess approximately $89,000 more in property taxes than state law allows. Additionally, a similar error in 2021 led to the county assessing approximately $5,000 less in property taxes than permitted by state law.

The audit also found inadequate controls and procedures in the Sheriff’s office regarding inmate money and commissary purchases. It noted that Sheriff’s office personnel do not deposit inmate money promptly, increasing the risk of loss, theft, or misuse of funds. Furthermore, office personnel failed to prepare a monthly list of liabilities for inmate and commissary accounts, a recurring issue identified in four previous audit reports.

Other issues identified include mid-term salary increases for the Sheriff that violate constitutional provisions, the County Clerk’s failure to prepare back tax, land and personal tax, and railroad and utility tax aggregate abstracts for 2018 through 2022, noncompliance by the County Commission with the Sunshine Law, and the need for improved electronic data security and a records management and retention policy for electronic communications.

The 2016 audit, which rated the county as poor, highlighted concerns with the misuse of sales tax revenue, problems with accounting duties segregation in several county offices, and the need for enhanced security for electronic data. A follow-up report in 2018 showed that county officials had made progress on, and in many cases fully implemented, the audit’s recommendations.

A complete copy of the current Montgomery County audit is available here.

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