Independent audit finds Garfield County 'prudent' with its finances

Auditors praise ease of working with elected officials, administration and staff

July 18, 2018

GARFIELD COUNTY, Colo. – Garfield County scored high marks from an independent auditing firm that was tasked with assessing the county’s financial statements, and noting any potential issues that could arise. Findings from the comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR), were presented to the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) by Paul Backes, CPA, from McMahan and Associates, L.L.C.

He said there were no difficulties found in the Garfield audit, and that his team had no disagreements with management over internal control.

Backes said his firm audits numerous counties and municipalities from around Colorado, and takes a “balance sheet approach” to its assessments of financial statements.

“Our goal is to have all the financial statements that users can rely on,” he said. “I feel that Garfield County has been really prudent with fund balances and in how you handle your resources.”

At the end of 2017, the county’s fund balance was $107.1 million, a decrease of 12.1 percent compared to the prior year. This decrease was due to capital expenditures and discretionary grants awarded by the BOCC to nonprofits; other governments; the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA); and human service grant awards. The county also saw a significant reduction in property tax revenues, due to lower gas prices and reduced production in 2015. Approximately $32.5 million, or 30.3 percent, is unassigned fund balance.

The CAFR is sent to the federal government, state, and banks that conduct business with Garfield County. Backes added that bond holders frequently use these audits.

“Bond holders examine these audits when looking to acquire debt,” said Finance Director Theresa Wagenman. “Garfield County is one of the few counties that doesn’t have any debt itself.”

Staff from McMahan and Associates met with various department heads and elected officials to assess what controls are in place to oversee how financial transactions are carried out. They then provide recommendations on “anything other than the optimal setup for internal controls,” Backes explained.

The audit also ensures that the county is following state statutes, and that banks the county does business with are protected under FDIC. It also checks that capital assets are accounted for when purchased; that they are insured; and that depreciation is calculated and booked annually.

Backes added that Garfield County staff is very professional and courteous during the audit process.

“They always have the information that we need ready when we request it, they’re pleasant and kind to work with, and that goes a long ways,” he said “The culture of the organization starts at the top with the elected officials and the BOCC, and there’s a lot to be said about your staff and how great they are to work with.”