WCESD#4 Board tables action on audit

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By Christine Bolaños

The Williamson County Emergency Services District #4 Commissioners officially contracted with Alliance Payroll of Austin to process payroll for an estimated annual cost of $2,941.75.

Monday’s decision comes three weeks after commissioners retained Municipal Accounts & Consulting of Austin to handle all bookkeeping. Both decisions were in direct response to discrepancies in payroll that surfaced after a 2014 audit, which led to the arrest and termination of Administrative Assistant Tiffany Wells.

Earlier this month, Sandra Taylor, president of the WCESD #4 Board, said it is unknown how much money is missing but that Wells confessed to stealing $42,000.

The Board tabled a decision on hiring an auditor to conduct a forensic audit of the ESD books at its special meeting Monday. This is the second time the Board opted to table the item and was a decision based on advice from its lawyer.

At an estimated $200 per hour, it could cost taxpayers as much as $5,000 to conduct a one-year critical audit.

Taylor has been trying to contact the District Attorney’s Office to determine whether the audit is needed in light of Wells’ confession that she took $42,000. She said she left five messages at the DA’s office and then spoke to the Board’s lawyer who told her sometimes calls are not returned due to busy schedules.

“I said but we have to know something. I said do we go forward with this critical audit,” Taylor said. “Mark (lawyer) was out all week. I called him back again today and he said, ‘Sandra, with what’s going on, we don’t know. He said, ‘Right now, she’s copped to $42,000.’ Just like we all said. That we don’t even know if we’ll get that extra $5,000 because we haven’t been able to talk to anyone. So he suggested that we just right now say, ‘not.’”

WCESD #4’s insurance will pay up to $25,000 for the loss attributed to Wells. The insurance provider does not require a critical audit only proof that the fraud has been uncovered, Fire Chief Anthony Lincoln told commissioners.

Meanwhile, Medack & Altmann of Giddings, which revealed the discrepancies, can’t complete its audit.

“They told us that they can go a little bit deeper but they couldn’t give us 100 percent guarantee. That’s what a critical audit would do,” Taylor explained. “They can’t finish their audit unless they go a little bit deeper. So they’re going to talk to Anthony (Lincoln) probably on Friday.”

The Board plans to bring the critical audit back to the table at its April 20 meeting.

Commissioners also discussed payroll processing.

WCESD #4 had budgeted about $5,000 for its annual payroll processing so the cost is well within budget, Lincoln told commissioners. Proposed pricing for Alliance Payroll of Austin services is based on 25 employees paid bi-weekly.

“We’re working on a true set of books to send to Municipal. We have to have a true set of records on the payroll before we can switch to Alliance,” Lincoln said. “And then we have to have the insurance audit done to recoup the money that they’re going to pay on our insurance.”

WCESD #4 will also have to track benefits in-house, Lincoln added.

He hopes to have everything ready to go with Municipal Accounts & Consulting within 30 days.

“It’s a lot to take on at one time, but we’re going to have to do it,” he said. “We gotta convert over.”

Lincoln told commissioners he has a part-time administrator helping him keep business in order.

Laura Stofle came out of retirement to work on WCESD #4’s accounting, payroll and bill pay.

Lincoln said she is only working about 15 hours and he is unsure whether she will choose to remain in the position or how the position may change in the long run.

“At least until we can get as many bugs worked out as we can,” the Chief said of Stofle’s tenure.

There is no job description in place yet for the position.

As administrative assistant, Wells was responsible for posting bills and entering receipts into Quickbooks bookkeeping software. She also posted payroll every two weeks, kept minutes for ESD Board meetings and assisted through the budget process.

Those responsibilities have been distributed out to staff, Lincoln said.

Commissioners also plan to discuss at their April 20 meeting the possibility of calling an election in November for voters to consider a ¼ cent sales tax that would be applicable in the fire district outside the City of Liberty Hill.

Lincoln and ESD board members say the additional revenue is needed to equip and staff a second fire station in the eastern part of the fire district.

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