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Hall audit shows housing program running millions in deficits
Lack of internal controls, compliance led to problem, according to report
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Hall County audit findings

Fiscal Year 2014 general fund

• Revenues exceeded budget by $4.5 million

• Revenues, however, decreased $3.2 million from the 2013 fiscal year, largely because the latter year included the $7 million sale of a jail to the city of Gainesville

• Expenses under budget about $417,000

• Expenses, however, did increase $4.9 million from the 2013 fiscal year, in part because of increased salary and benefits costs

•Net loss to general fund of $305,000

Source: BatesCarter

Board denies new personnel

The Hall County Board of Commissioners denied requests Thursday for additional personnel in the District Attorney’s office and landfill division.

Commissioner Scott Gibbs said it would open the floodgates to similar requests, which the county can’t afford.

Commissioners said they would support new hiring in the next fiscal year, but didn’t want to put themselves in a position to possibly have to cut jobs down the road if funding is not available.

“It’s hard to make a budget amendment in the middle of the year for personnel,” Commissioner Jeff Stowe said.

Joshua Silavent

Described as “very serious in nature,” accounting deficiencies in a grant-funded housing program operated by Hall County were revealed Thursday night in an audit report to the Board of Commissioners.

County officials missed a deadline to submit the 2014 fiscal year audit to the state after problems with the Neighborhood Stabilization Program were discovered.

According to the audit report, a lack of internal controls and compliance has caused the NSP to run millions of dollars in deficits for the past two years, which have been paid by general fund tax dollars.

Additionally, a $33,000 salary expense did not have proper documentation, and a draw request was overstated by $16,000.

Beth Grimes, a partner with the Gainesville-based audit firm BatesCarter, said problems with the NSP can be fixed.

She recommended Hall County officials reconcile program expenses with accounting records more frequently, perhaps every month.

The county took control of the NSP about three years ago with the aim of providing more efficient distribution of federal grant money to purchase and rehab foreclosed and abandoned homes.

County officials did acknowledge at the time, however, the program presented a great financial liability. The program has stringent federal funding requirements and state review standards.

Murrayville resident Doug Aiken told commissioners it’s time to scrap the program.

County officials said they will work to improve oversight of the NSP, and might consider filling a position to better manage the grant funds and avoid similar problems next year.

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