A financial audit of Jerusalem Township for 2008, issued by the state auditor’s office last month, showed the township’s budget was shrinking due to a poor economy.
“The challenge for all townships is to provide quality services to the public while staying within the restrictions imposed by limited, and in some cases shrinking, funding,” states the audit. The township relies heavily on local taxes and has very little industry to support the tax base.
In 2008, the total cost of services, which included public safety, public works, health, conservation-recreation, and capital outlay, was $965,973, compared to $841,757 in 2007.
The township’s general receipts, which are primarily property taxes, represent 47 percent of the total cash received for governmental activities during the year. Property tax receipts for 2008 changed very little compared to 2007 because development within the township has slowed as the result of the majority of the township being located in a flood plain.
Federal regulations, new housing starts as well as home improvements and additions in the flood plain area have been drastically curtailed due to economic conditions, states the audit.
“The dependence upon property tax receipts is apparent as $436,441 of governmental activities is supported through these general receipts,” states the audit.
Total governmental funds had receipts of $921,911 and disbursements and other financing uses of $965,973.
The greatest change within governmental funds occurred within the General Fund, which decreased by $82,223 due to a decrease in the rate of return on investments, and an increase in expenditures for general government, states the audit.
“The township anticipates collecting delinquent taxes on properties under foreclosure, as opposed to requesting additional funds from taxpayers,” states the audit.
Net assets of governmental activities dropped from $1,401,871 in 2007 to $1,357,809 in 2008, a decrease of $44,062.
Last year, former Jerusalem Township Trustee Joe Gray filed a complaint with the auditor’s office alleging that Township Fiscal Officer Julie Van Nest was not paying the township’s bills out of the proper accounts. He sought a ruling from the auditor later in the year.
“She’s made too many mistakes,” Gray said of Van Nest at the time. “She’s been taking money out of the wrong appropriations. She hasn’t been paying her bills on time. And these are just the ones I caught. So I refuse to sign checks. When you sign your name to a check, you say that check is good.”
Gray, in a letter to state Auditor Mary Taylor last August 21, requested an audit, claiming that Van Nest had not made information, such as copies of the minutes, financial statements and reports, available to the public, to him, and other officials.
"This lack of information from the fiscal officer is interfering with the daily operation and responsible decision making for the township," Gray said in the letter.
Gray, along with Trustees Rodney Graffis and Joe Kiss, voted for an audit, though Kiss said he did so to show Van Nest did nothing wrong.
Results of the audit, issued last month, showed there was no financial impropriety regarding Van Nest’s payment of bills.
Van Nest was out of town and could not be reached for comment. Gray did not immediately return a message for comment.
Kiss said the audit “vindicated” Van Nest.
“She didn’t do anything wrong. She was doing the job to the best of her ability and doing everything properly,” said Kiss. “Gray was absolutely wrong. He was just pressuring Julie to leave her post, and thank God she didn’t.”
When Gray refused to sign his name to checks so that Van Nest could pay the bills, late fees were incurred against the township in some instances,” said Kiss.
“It was stressful to her that she couldn’t get things paid when they should have been,” he added.
Gray and Graffis, who were defeated for re-election last November, often clashed with Kiss and Van Nest after they were elected to their seats a few years ago. Van Nest unseated former Fiscal Officer Don Murray, a close ally of Gray and Graffis.
The board of trustees was often divided, with Gray and Graffis voting together on most issues.
It is the second year in a row that the township has received a single year audit. The state regularly conducts two year audits of townships.
The auditor of state is required by Ohio Revised Code to conduct financial audits of all government entities.