Starkville officials authorized City Clerk Taylor Adams Tuesday to review Starkville Parks and Recreation’s audit and budgeting issues in order to determine how the city will handle the autonomous board after numerous anomalies surfaced in its Fiscal Year 2012 report.
Mayor Parker Wiseman broke a 3-3 tie on a motion asking Adams to make financial projections for the remainder of the fiscal year for Starkville Parks Commission, provide the status of internal SPC controls, present a list of invoices the organization paid later than 45 days after receipt and research any information deemed necessary as the board moves forward with its budgetary investigation.
Adams’ report is due at the board’s scheduled June 4 meeting.
Ward 5 alderman Jeremiah Dumas identified several new budgeting issues Tuesday from SPC’s previous fiscal year, alleging the organization maintained overdue electric bills and failed to meet state-required 45-day payments of invoices.
SPC’s FY 2013 parks improvements budget — an annual allotment of $180,000 — now has only $12.35 remaining, city officials confirmed Tuesday. In April, a Dispatch Freedom of Information Act request showed SPC had already used $175,954.62 of that specific fund.
Dumas took issue with SPC’s handling of its budgeting and payment process Tuesday during the city meeting. Led by GOP mayoral candidate Dan Moreland, SPC is an autonomous board which receives revenue streams from various avenues, including general appropriations, private donations and 40 percent of the city’s 2 percent food and beverage tax returns.
CPA Randy Scrivner delivered a report on the city’s FY 2012 audit which tied in findings from SPC’s previous audit. In April, Scrivner told Parks commissioners that serious issues involving inadequate policies and procedures to monitor internal budgets of capital projects, the issuance of payments without commission approval and budget overages on numerous SPC line items were discovered in its FY 2012 audit.
Two of those findings dealt with the development of the J.L. King Park Splash Pad, which is one of the first major capital projects managed by SPC while operating under autonomy. SPC’s audit also revealed Moreland issued an unauthorized $35,000 cashier’s check to help pay the department’s construction bill.
Dumas raised issues with SPC’s bill-paying mechanisms when he held up Starkville Electric Department bills and Powerstroke Equipment, Sales and Service LLC invoices. Powerstroke is located on Lynn Lane, less than a mile away from the Starkville Sportsplex.
“Just in a billing cycle from (Nov. 27) to (Dec. 16), Parks and Rec is shown ‘past due’ at $41,500 just on electric bills. Is that a control we need to implement from the Starkville Electric side? I’ve got three billing cycles for a total of $58,000 past due. They’d cut my lights off; they’d cut everybody’s lights off,” Dumas said. “I also have 75 invoices that are over 45 days old that break state statute of 45-day invoice payment. That’s well over $24,000 in invoices that were submitted to the city on record. This individual was going out against the city, when in fact it was nothing with the city of Starkville; it was with the Parks Commission.
“I’m wondering from Parks’ perspective — this seems systematic of bigger issues — how do we control these internally from our standpoint?” he asked Scrivner. “How do we ensure that this doesn’t happen?”
Ward 2 alderman Sandra Sistrunk also joined Dumas in asking Scrivner how internal controls could keep SPC budgeting issues from occurring in the future. Scrivner told the board he could not think of a control the city could impose on an autonomous board to make it pay its bills on time.
“You can do something with the 2 percent funding because you’re involved with that; you can require more detailed monthly reports and raise questions, but I don’t know if you can impose your will upon what your attorney (Chris Latimer) says about an autonomous board,” he said. “The 2 percent money — you can take that back over to resolve that.”
Aldermen voted 3-3, with Ward 1 alderman Ben Carver, Ward 6 alderman Roy A. Perkins and Ward 7 alderman Henry Vaughn voting against — to accept the city’s audit as presented. Wiseman broke the tie with an affirmative vote. Sistrunk then motioned the request for Adams’ insight, with the same vote breakdown — she, Dumas and Ward 4 alderman Richard Corey — voting in favor. Wiseman again broke the tie with an affirmative vote.
Ward 5 Alderman Eric Parker was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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