The city of Meridian’s eighteen-year auditors Breazeale, Saunders, and O’Neil, Ltd. presented the annual audit report in a work session this morning, and while a lot of numbers were steady, one major issue is something the administration and council intend to address in the near future. Auditor Paul Breazeale said they found what they claim to be a severe deficiency within the city’s payroll. “They need to make some adjustments to make the payroll what it ought to be. Most of the costs within the city is in the payroll. So, you need to have a great system of internal controls. You need to have modern tools to make it work properly,” said Breazeale. This is something the auditors say can create what they call fictitious employees as a result of an outdated system.
“I think it’s long overdue to have a system where the council is more aware of what’s going on. There can be no reason that a department head or supervisor can claim to be unaware if someone is fraudulently filling out their time sheets and things like that. So, aside from the current, on-going investigations, hopefully we wouldn’t have those problems in the future,” said Ward 5 Councilman Weston Lindemann. Lindemann and Mayor Bland have a history of disagreements, but this is something they agree on. “We have a payroll system that needs to be modified, period. It needs to be modernized, period. We have discussed that with the council over the last several years, that we need to put some money there to modernize our system so that we don’t have a manual pay roll system that takes all day by three employees to do,” said Mayor Bland.
However, they are in disagreement about how to deal with the portion of the 199-page audit report that shows a decade of flat sales taxes and property taxes. “For the last ten years, both our sales tax revenue and our property tax revenues have been flat. For ten years, we have not had any tax increases as it relates to the city. No business, no system-- nothing can exist if you don’t increase on revenues as your expenses are going up,” said Mayor Bland. He proposes either a cut in services or employees, or an increase in taxes, while Lindemann proposes lowering taxes and cutting what he says is major spending within the city. Another thing Lindemann proposes is a separate audit altogether. “If we did a performance audit and looked at how much is being wasted in lost productivity, that would shed new light on all of these numbers, because while we have increases in payroll costs, we’re seeing less services for it. So, I think when you take a closer look at the way the city is actually functioning, we’re not really in good shape.” The next city council meeting will be next Tuesday evening at 5 p.m. in city hall.