“The fire departments have a deadline of Oct. 31st to turn in required paperwork to auditors,” said Justin Marlowe, Boone County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney.
The Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is the legal representation of the Boone County Commission.
Marlowe told all the county’s fire department officials that the county commission would no longer just issue monthly levy funding checks if the paperwork was not done in a timely manner.
“The county has a responsibility to the voters of this county that voted for the fire levy,” Marlowe said. “The wording in the levy has always said the paperwork must be done ‘in a timely manner’ but it had no specific date.”
During Tuesday, March 5th, regular session of the Boone County Commission an executive session was held to nail down a date so the fire department would know exactly when to have the paperwork in and not have to go through the processes in the past.
“In the past, the county has been written up several times because all the fire departments did not have their paperwork turned into state auditors on time,” said Boone County Commissioner Atholl Halstead. “We want to get a deadline date so everyone knows when they need it in and fix this issue.”
At this point all the departments have filed the necessary paperwork, except for the fire department in Racine.
One issue was that only one auditor was available for all the fire departments in the county.
“We now have an approved list of about 40 auditors, so hopefully this will make getting an auditor easier,” Marlowe said.
County fire officials told Marlowe and the commission that they have check with many auditors and most don’t want to audit fire departments because of the levy.
“Hopefully, we can find at least one or two more on this new list and that should make it better,” Marlowe said.
Marlowe said the point of the commission’s decision is not to come down on fire departments or get them in trouble.
“However, we must have some responsibility and accountability built into this process,” he said.
Fire departments that fail to turn in its paperwork to auditors by the Oct. 31st deadline would have its monthly levy funding check withheld. Those fire department officials would then have to appear before the county commission in order to get the funds released after the paperwork is properly filed.
“This is being done in other counties and seems to be working,” Marlowe said.
Marlowe said the goal is not to disrupt fire services in the county, but to fix the issue paperwork being turned in to state auditors.
Racine fire officials said they were close to having its paperwork done. Racine fire officials also invited the county commission to its next fire department meeting.
The commission also recommended county fire departments should obtain a letter from its auditor that it has turned in all its required paperwork by the deadline date. The commission also said it would send all fire departments a letter outlining the new guidelines for meeting the new deadline date.
“I think the vague language in the levy has been the issue and that’s what we are trying to fix with a set deadline date,” Marlowe added.