Imagine that you are a small business owner or a manager tasked with finding an auditor to review your company’s financials. What criteria would you use in selecting that individual or company? Education, experience, credentials and reputation are but a few of the potential qualities and criteria used in making that selection. But this can be a difficult task in trying to discern who brings the most experience for the best value.
For this reason, the Tazewell County Board will be placing a referendum on the November 2018 ballot asking that the elected auditor’s position be replaced with an individual or a firm specializing in auditing. This measure addresses an issue the board has been talking about for more than 12 years. We have had some very capable auditors in the past who have served our county well, but now is the time to take our auditing functions to the next level. The primary purpose of the referendum is to ensure that Tazewell County taxpayers are getting the highest degree of professionalism and competence. As a bonus, we believe Tazewell County will also save money in the process.
There are several questions that I think voters will be asking and that deserve answers. One important question that has arisen is how the independence of an auditor will be affected if that individual can be removed by the board at any time. We are working closely with the State’s Attorney’s office to put processes in place to ensure full independence. I can say without reservation that the board is committed to a strong, independent and apolitical auditor. Measures such as a five-year contract and having the individual accountable to a committee composed of both board members and non-board members, who can remove the auditor only for cause, will help ensure that independence. The Auditor Review Committee is working diligently to guard the taxpayer and their dollars.
In addition to these steps being contemplated, we currently have many safeguards already in place, including a segregation of duties where potential issues could arise. The State of Illinois also continues to require an annual audit to be conducted and submitted to the appropriate state agencies. Lastly, many of the current auditing responsibilities overlap with the Tazewell County Finance Department to ensure more accountability in key transactions.
The Auditor Review Committee is made up of board members Mike Harris, Sue Sundell and Mike Godar. They are doing an excellent job in conducting due diligence surrounding this issue. The committee is asking: How do the 85 counties in Illinois without an elected auditor effectively protect themselves from fraud? Or, how do Illinois’ nearly 1,300 municipalities audit their financials without an elected auditor in place?
Although Tazewell County currently has strong financials, the future looks less certain—especially in light of the state’s finances. The board believes we can potentially save taxpayers money under the new structure. If this ballot measure passes, it will help strengthen our balance sheet and keep our tax rate one of the lowest in Illinois.
As Sue Sundell stated to the paper recently, “The whole point of having an appointed auditor is so they can have certain credentials.” This referendum, if successful, can help our county achieve and maintain what years of financial stewardship have accomplished. Ultimately this decision rests with the voters of Tazewell County, and the board has great respect and confidence in their ability to choose what they deem best.
As an aside, I want to congratulate and thank all the Local Legends featured in this issue for their lifetime of service and contributions to our community. iBi