Buffalo Rapids board hires outside accountant to review BR books

 By Kay Braddock

        In a two-hour account summary presentation, given by Bozeman-based CPA Kyla Stafford, members of the Buffalo Rapids Board of Control were told “operational expenses are pretty in line with last year.” 

Stafford, who was hired by the board during an earlier meeting, spent a day in the BR office reviewing the project’s origins of revenue, procedures for charges and cash reconciliation process, among other accounting items. 
“If I was serving on the board I would be really proud of the product that Pat’s given you. She’s very consistent. The records are very clear and they’re in good order,” Stafford said of BR secretary Pat Davis at the conclusion of the meeting. “I think you just need better operation information and one step up on your sophistication on your reports.”
One recommendation given by Stafford included getting rid of the project’s signature stamp for check signing. 
“I’m not a big fan of stamps at all because I’ve seen really bad things happen with stamps,” Stafford said.
A perfect accounting cycle would employ BR project manager Dave Schwarz as purchase authorizer, with Davis preparing claims and BR board members authorizing disbursements. The segregation of controls protects employees and the positions they hold, Stafford said.
Another recommendation included seeking the guidance of a local accountant to develop more uniquely designed reports for board members to better analyze. 
Noting the project’s strong reconciliation process with Prairie County Stafford said, “the majority of your revenues are really well safeguarded.”
Although the project is working on a deficit, Schwarz noted a large portion of that is expected to diminish as payments come in for outstanding pipeline projects.
When asked about project status reports, Stafford answered, “the project manager is doing them. The information is there.” She questioned whether the packets given to board members had too much information, noting unique reports could be designed to better present needed information.
Stafford noted the project’s front-end expenses generated during summer months and back-end revenues gathered through water assessments at the end of the year, demonstrates the projects need to build up cash reserves.
With budget shortfalls plaguing the district, BR board members continue to seek  underlying reasons.
“I guess it’s been past neglect of not raising assessments, is pretty much how we got to this point,” BR district 2 board member Barry Rakes said.
“Or not cutting costs,” member-at-large Ric Holden responded. “There’s two parts to it.”
Hired to review BR’s accounts at an earlier meeting to prepare for upcoming union negotiations, Stafford acknowledged that her area of specialty is in controls and fraud audits when questioned by Davis as to why she was asked to come to the project.
“I was asked to see if there was some,” Stafford replied in regard to a quick fraud audit.

Published Sept. 30, 2009

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