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Families get ready to watch a movie in their vehicles for a drive-in movie event hosted by Love What’s Local on Saturday, June 20, in the First Baptist Church parking lot. Families stayed in or near their vehicles to maintain social distancing. The event was free and open to the public.

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Johnson County Collector's office receives 'excellent' rating following state audit

WARRENSBURG — The Missouri State Auditor’s Office gave the Johnson County Collector’s Office an “excellent” rating Monday, June 22, following an audit of the organization.

The county collector bills and collects property taxes for the county and most local governments.

Missouri law requires an audit of the Johnson County Collector’s Office after a vacancy occurs in the office.

Ruthane Small served as county collector until her resignation effective March 2, 2020.

Laura Smith was appointed the Johnson County collector and sworn into office March 3, 2020.

The Missouri State Auditor’s Office’s report stated the objective of the audit was to evaluate the county’s internal controls over significant property tax functions and evaluate the county’s compliance with certain legal provisions.

Small said the Johnson County Collector’s Office receives an in-house audit and external audit performed by the county each year, so the office only receives a state audit in the instance of a vacancy.

Small said the annual county audits ensure financial soundness and accuracy while the state audit also looks into different laws that are applied and makes sure computation is done in the correct manner.

“This job does not just involve taking the taxes over the counter and writing some checks at the end of the month,” Small said.

Small said all of the payments made through the collector’s office have different guidelines regarding how they are accepted and dispersed, which the auditor’s office also looks at.

The Missouri State Auditor’s Office gives entities a rating of poor, fair, good or excellent based on its findings.

The Johnson County Collector’s Office received a rating of “excellent” in the areas audited.

An excellent rating for an audit indicates an entity is “very well managed” and no findings resulted from the audit.

In its report, the Missouri State Auditor’s Office stated the audit identified no significant deficiencies in internal controls and no significant noncompliance with legal provisions.

“With the transition from a collector who served for many years to a new office-holder, the taxpayers of Johnson County can be pleased this audit confirms the collector’s office was run in an efficient and cost-effective manner,” Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway said in a release.

When the Missouri State Auditor’s Office performs an audit following a vacancy, it is often unable to effectively communicate with the previous county collector during the process as vacancies in the position are often due to improprieties and the office’s audit is part of the investigation.

However, because the vacancy in the Johnson County collector position was the result of Small’s retirement, she was able to assist the Missouri State Auditor’s office by providing documents and answering questions when they arose in a more thorough manner than a county collector that is under investigation.

“Most people fear audits but I always welcomed an audit,” Small said. “If you’re doing everything right, then there should be no problems.”

However, Small and Smith said the timing of the audit, which began March 16, provided difficulties as it coincided with the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S.

Smith recalled that within a couple hours upon arrival at the collector’s office, the field auditor was notified that all of the field auditors were being recalled back to their office.

From then on, Smith said the audit was completed remotely by scanning and emailing the necessary documents to the auditor’s office.

During Small’s time as collector she moved the office to its current location at 1310 S. Maguire St., where citizens could utilize its drive-thru facility, which became integral in remaining open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through Small’s budgeting, the county was able to purchase the building without increasing rates for taxpayers.

Small said she strived to achieve an excellent rating through her time as collector and was glad to know she was leaving the office in a good position for Smith.

“Ruthane left the office in very good order,” Smith said. “She was very well organized and very supportive in helping me transition into the position. I just can’t say enough nice things about how well in order everything in the office was left.”

Small said she focused on two key elements in her position: doing a good job and doing the right thing.

Smith said she plans on learning Small’s process to its full extent and will try to implement improvements if she finds an instance to do so.

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Big Brothers Big Sisters of Johnson County announces 2019 award winners

WARRENSBURG — Big Brothers Big Sisters of Johnson County has announced its 2019 annual award winners.

Dana Phelps, executive director, said BBBS staff and Board of Directors were planning to host a reception for the winners this spring but decided it was best to award the winners virtually.

“Although we didn’t get to recognize each winner in person we just could not appreciate them more,” Dana Phelps said. “They and many other generous people in our county make it possible for BBBS to continue to support the relationships between adult mentors and our youth who need that support now more than ever.”

The Board of Directors voted in January from the ballot of candidates that were nominated.

Monetti Service Award — Given to a board member or committee member that has shown efforts and leadership in helping BBBS reach goals during the current year.

The 2019 winner is Eddie Chitwood.

Chitwood heads up the BBBS donation center, serves as the BBBS Board of Directors secretary and helps out in a number of volunteer roles throughout the year donating countless hours of time.

“I truly wish to thank each of you that selected me for the 2019 Monetti Service Award,” Chitwood said. “I also have to thank my Bin Crew (Betsey, Dennis Todd, Dennis Foresman, Stan Gustafson and Ethan Souder) who help at various times. Without them, what you give me credit for could not be possible. I have never felt unappreciated, but to receive this award and be recognized by my peers is extra special. I am very proud to be a small part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization and I thank you for your involvement as well. Together, we will continue to Defend the Potential of the youth in Johnson County.”

Stormy Taylor Community Partner Award — Given to an organization or business that has shown support for the organization. Support can be through monetary donations, volunteers or partnerships to help the organization.

The 2019 winners are Jack and Pat Phelps.

Jack and Pat hosted the 2019 Big Games at their farm, donating the space and food for the day.

The pair donated or attended each fundraising event BBBS hosted in 2019.

Jack and Pat said it is their pleasure to support BBBS of Johnson County.

“The youth in our communities are our future and it is important to make sure they have what they need to succeed,” Jack and Pat said.

Ramona Conant Big of the Year Award — Given to a Big Brother, Big Sister or Big Couple that has made a significant difference in the life of a child.

The 2019 Big of the year is Adonius Wright.

Wright has been a Big sister since 2015 and continues to be involved with her Little sister on a regular basis.

Wright has volunteered at BBBS events from time to time and is a spokesperson and advocate for the BBBS mission.

“I am very honored to receive this award and am grateful to have been paired with Amiya for the past 5 years,” Wright said. “She really is an awesome young lady and keeps me on my toes. I share this award with my spouse who graciously took on Amiya along with me and has always welcomed Amiya into our family and home. Dana and Dane at Big Brothers Big Sisters have made my job easier by keeping me in the loop regarding upcoming events which allows Amiya and I to regularly try new things that I may not have thought of on my own. I couldn’t have done it without the great support system that they provide.”

Anyone wanting to learn more about supporting the program or becoming a Big or a Little should email or call the office at (660) 429-1991.