Thursday, March 23, 2000

Audit confirms Ludlow problems

May take months to fix

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LUDLOW — The annual audit backs up what critics have been saying for months: Records have not been properly maintained, delayed billings have caused a cash flow problem, and the city spent more than budgeted in its water and waste fund.

        On the positive side, Robin Garrison, Ludlow's temporary clerk-treasurer, said she is taking steps to correct many of the deficiencies.

        Ms. Garrison said she and another temporary worker are changing everything from the way Ludlow keeps its financial records to how quickly it sends out bills for city services.

        “It's still going to take several months to get everything straightened out,” she said.

        But, Mayor Tom Stacy said, “I don't think there's anything in there we can't fix.”

        Ms. Garrison and a temporary bookkeeper were hired last month, after the resignations of Ludlow's clerk-trea surer and deputy clerk.

        The audit by Rankin, Rankin and Co. that city officials released Wednesday covers the fiscal year that ended June 30, 1999.

        Its findings include:

        • Ludlow's accounting records are not being maintained on a monthly basis, and the city's bank accounts are not being reconciled monthly.

        “I'm still working on catching that up,” Ms. Garrison said. She said she's reconciled the city's four largest bank accounts, or the ones that bills are paid from.

        Ms. Garrison said previous city clerical staff apparently had reconciled accounts by hand until March of last year. In the past month, she said, she has brought the reconciliations up to date and is now doing them by computer.

        • The city has fallen behind in quarterly billings for water, waste and fire services. That is causing a cash flow problem for Ludlow's water and general funds.

        “Unfortunately, we're going to have a couple of large bills go out. But beyond that, we'll be sending (city bills) out on a quarterly basis, as they should be,” Ms. Garrison said.

        Ludlow water bills from February 1999 through Febru ary of this year were sent out last week, and Ms. Garrison said water bills for the quarter ending in May should go out on June 1.

        She plans to send out several quarters of fire and garbage bills in April.

        • No current actuarial information is available for the Policemen's Pension Fund.

        • For proper internal control, the city should not have the same person handle the execution and recording of transactions.

        “We've got it split now, so that I'm doing the bank deposits, but (the temporary bookkeeper) is actually posting them to the accounts,” Ms. Garrison said.

        • Since March 1, 1995, the city has received federal COPS grants for an additional five full-time police officers, but did not maintain the proper staffing for the grants received.

        The majority of council has balked at accepting some of the COPS grants, citing concerns that the city would be committing to funding additional police officers it cannot afford when the grants expire.

        • The water and waste fund had expenditures “in excess of legally adopted appropriations.”


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