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.