MOUNT VERNON — Having heard of Knox County’s recent budget struggles, representatives from the State Auditor’s Office came to town Thursday to offer assistance ... for a price. Betsy Bashore and Jim Hudson, of the state auditor’s Performance Audit Division, were joined by Rob Pike of the state auditor’s office to meet with the Knox County Board of Commissioners.
According to Bashore, the PAD has been around 12 years, and has worked with school districts, county government entities and municipal governments to review their processes and facilities in hopes of finding ways to save money. The service uses gap analysis, a statistical way of comparing and contrasting the processes of the governmental entity being studied with other operations that have been audited in the past, both in Ohio and in other locations around the nation.
Commissioner Teresa Bemiller asked what sort of costs might be involved with this service. Bashore said that they could customize what they review. She said that they have performed jobs with price tags ranging from $5,000 to $1,000,000. She said that the going rate is $37 per hour, per person. Typical large county departments, such as, for instance, a sheriff’s department or county engineer’s office, cost around $30,000 to process audit, Bashore said.
Commissioner Allen Stockberger asked if there was time to perform an audit between now and the end of the year. Bashore said that there was time to complete the work, but not to finish the reports. She estimated that if an audit were started now, analyses would not be finished until about February. She said that departments they have worked with have been very pleased with the findings PAD has given them.
Knox County Auditor Jonette Curry said that her biggest concern would be justifying the cost of the audit expenses when the budget is tight.
Bashore said that it is often surprising how much savings can be found. She pointed out that she noticed the county building rest rooms were not equipped with motion sensors for lights, which prevent lights from being left on in empty rooms for hours on end. Bashore said that an audit can be customized to focus on equipment, services, energy, purchasing, or other elements countywide instead of focusing on one or two departments.
Pike said that the auditor’s office encourages Ohio’s counties to make use of the auditing service.
“You folks are busy, you have a big tent,” Pike said. “And then you have these office holders that kind of have their own kingdoms.” He added that the audit process helps tie the various departments together through both best practices and active discussion.
The commissioners agreed to take the idea into consideration and decide soon whether or not to pursue the audit idea. Bashore gave the commissioners some examples of reports from other counties to peruse for insight about the kind of findings PAD’s process audits can bring to light.