Audit shows positive direction for parish

Published 8:46 am Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Washington Parish government has improved its financial position and is headed in the right fiscal direction, according to its 2013 audit report.

That welcome news was presented to the Parish Council during its Monday, June 9, meeting by Wilson LaGraize of Kushner LaGraize, the parish’s CPA firm.

The fact that there were no findings in the annual financial report for the fiscal year ending Dec. 31, 2013, is significant, he said.

That means the parish has administered its fiscal duties and responsibilities in accordance with government auditing standards and Louisiana law, he said, also noting that the parish’s internal controls are performing well.

Additionally, the parish’s funds reported a combined fund balance of $7,505,315 at the close of the fiscal year, an increase of $598,191 over the previous year.

LaGraize said the best news from the audit report has to do with the general fund.

Washington Parish closed out 2012 with $92 in its general fund. LaGraize said he was concerned about potential adverse consequences at that time, and he told the council about those during last year’s audit report.

At the close of the end of this fiscal year, though, there was $5,532 in the general fund.

“That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it means a lot,” LaGraize said. “It means that we have turned a corner, and we’re back on the right track.”

He said the audit determined that the improvement in the fund balance was accomplished through belt-tightening measures.

Parish government funds saw across-the-board cuts of approximately 16 percent during 2013, he said.

“This provided enough funds for us to meet the other inflationary-type expenses that you can’t avoid,” he said.

LaGraize cautioned the council, however, that the parish is not out of the woods yet.

The fund balance should be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, rather than around $5,000, LaGraize said.

Still, he said the parish embarked on a conservative path during 2013, and he is optimistic the fund balance situation will continue to improve in the future.

Further, he noted that collections from the one third of one cent sales tax passed by voters in October 2013 were not reflected in the current audit, as the levy of the tax did not begin until Jan. 1.

But those revenues will make a difference in next year’s fund balance, he said.

“I encourage you to continue the vigilance that you have demonstrated in the past calendar year,” he concluded.

Finance Director Donna Graham thanked the members of the parish government administrative staff for their assistance in accomplishing a clean audit this year, and Parish President Richard Thomas echoed that sentiment.

He also expressed his appreciation to all parish government employees for the sacrifices they made during 2013.

“We know we’ve got to continue tightening our belt, and we will do that,” he added.

In other business, the council approved the addition of a 1,056-foot stretch of Wallace Cemetery Road to the Department of Public Works maintenance inventory.

The inventory now lists the roadway’s distance as 2,112 feet.

Additionally, the council voted to approve construction and assume maintenance of Peterson Road Bridge and M Thomas Road Bridge.

Each of those bridges was designed and constructed by the state Department of Transportation and Development as part of the bridge replacement program.