IONIA — With proposed changes to the way local governments must account for their money, the Ionia County Board of Commissioners approved hiring a certified public accounting firm to provide services that will ensure the county abides by all new requirements.
County Finance Director Linda Pigue told commissioners at their meeting Tuesday that the county solicited six sealed bids for accounting services on major projects for the period of Sept. 21, 2021, to Sept. 30, 2022. One proposal was submitted by Maner Costerisan.
“The state is requiring local governments to change their chart of accounts in 2022. This requires analysis,” Pigue said. “I’m going to need help, I don’t have time and additional accounting expertise to do the work.”
Pigue told commissioners that it would be useful to have a firm that has an understanding of the county’s financial systems in detail “in case I get hit by a bus.”
“The county has one accountant,” she noted.
Accounting services will include:
• Assistance with the conversion of the BS&A and Precision software systems to the new State of Michigan Local Government Uniform Chart of Accounts. Changes to the Precision Chart of Accounts may have implications for related systems, such ADARS, LAPS, IRT and Roadsoft;
• Assistance with upgrading the Precision Software to the most current version;
• Completion of GASB 84 implementation;
• Automating merging of W-2, MERS and other file uploads from the Precision and BS&A software systems;
• Assistance with implementation of GASB 87 Leases and GASB 96 Subscription Based Information Technology Arrangements (SBITA).
Pigue noted that in the last 30 years, the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) “has been dragging government closer to matching the private sector,” for example in the way municipalities account for assets and how they amortize and depreciate them, to “closely mirror” the way private businesses do.
The proposed cost is $72,000 for work other than GASB 87 and 96, which is an additional $1,200 per lease for GASB 87, and for GASB 96 an additional $1,200 per SBITA.
Commissioner Larry Tiejema noted that, for large cities and in certain situations, “looking at government like a business can be helpful.”
“We have to have a professional guide us correctly so our audit is correct,” he added.
AUDIT CONTRACT TABLED
Commissioners also decided to hold off on awarding a contract to complete a financial audit of the county for the 2021 fiscal year to Rehmann Robson. Action will be taken on this item at the next board meeting.
The Board of Commissioners has an Audit Committee comprised of Tiejema, Karen Banks and Jack Shattuck. If awarded the audit contract, Rehmann Robson would be new to auditing Ionia County.
“As a result, the Audit Committee decided they would like an opportunity to meet with the firm before making a final decision,” said Pigue.
The county solicited sealed bids from six qualified certified public accounting firms to audit the county’s financial statements for the year ending Dec. 31, 2021, with the option of also performing the audit for the 2022 and 2023 statements, according to Pigue.
Four proposals were received, ranging from $36,140 to $50,000. Rehmann Robson was not the low bidder. However, in evaluating audit proposals, there are multiple factors considered, such as whether they audit other counties of comparable size and other road departments, whether they have a staff of sufficient number and experience, and whether they have experience auditing entities that use the same accounting software packages as Ionia County, Pigue said.
Rehmann Robson’s bid was $50,000 for the 2021 fiscal year, $51,600 for fiscal year 2022 and $53,300 for fiscal year 2023.
One of bids received was from Maner Costerisan, but because that firm was selected to provide accounting services to assist with major accounting projects, it can’t also work on the county’s audit.
“It would be a conflict of interest,” Pigue explained.
Maner Costerisan previously performed Ionia County’s audit in 2019 and 2020.
Commissioners also approved a proposal from engineering firm Fleis & Vandenbrink to draw up a mitigation plan for the county to be submitted to FEMA for approval.
The firm will work with the county’s emergency manager, Ionia County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. William Hoskins, to identify natural disaster risks and vulnerabilities in the area, and develop long-term strategies for protecting people and property from these types of events.
The county received five proposals for the work ranging from $24,475 to $122,070. While Fleis & Vandenbrink’s quote was the second-lowest at $40,250, Hoskins recommended the board accept their bid, because the firm has already worked on similar projects in Region 6, as well as done a “substantial” amount of work for municipalities in Ionia County.
The mitigation plan will be paid for by a FEMA grant that the county’s Office of Emergency Management applied for in the amount of $29,999.58, with an additional local match of $9,999.87.
Having a mitigation plan — and updating it every five years — would allow the county and private citizens to apply for FEMA grants in the event of a catastrophe. The plan would cover all cities, villages and townships in Ionia County.
In other matters …
Commissioners also approved hiring for a second open Ionia County Central Dispatch position requested by Director Lance Langdon, who had previously received approval to hire for one opening.
The 9-1-1 call center currently has nine full-time positions with one in training, two part-time, and two open positions.
Langdon told commissioners he has begun the hiring process and is finishing background checks on two applicants who have been interviewed. Interviews will take place Wednesday morning for three more applicants. There were 11 applications from the last posting, he said.
“We’ll get the best of the two groups and look to make job offers,” Langdon said.
Commissioners also approved signing the fiscal year 2021 Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG) Grant agreement, which allows the Michigan State Police Emergency Management and Homeland Security to reimburse Ionia County $20,012 for EMPG activities from Oct. 1, 2020, through Sept. 30, 2021.
The board also voted to ratify the signatures of Ionia County Prosecutor Kyle Butler and Treasurer Judy Clark on a grant agreement with the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services for a Victim Rights Prosecutor for the period of Oct. 1, 2021, through Sept. 30, 2022, in the amount of $83,359.