Auditor holds budget workshop
State Auditor John B. (JB) McCuskey visited the Eastern Panhandle last Thursday to oversee a regional budget training session at the Martinsburg Holiday Inn. McCuskey was elected to the position in November after having served as a Republican member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, representing District 35 from 2013-17.
The job of the state auditor is to monitor state funds, making sure they are withdrawn and deposited legally. The auditor’s office also approves all county and city budgets.
The training given Thursday was geared toward the county budgets, although there were those in attendance not responsible for the county budget. Among them were members of law enforcement and prosecutor’s offices, who, as elected officials, receive their monetary allocations through their county commissions.
McCuskey shared some remarks at the beginning of the session, outlining his goals. Among those are the incorporation of a new computer system, Oasis, which will wrap several systems into one. The move to the new system has been a work in progress, one McCuskey says needs to be completed.
He said that he plans to streamline the audit process in the future, hopefully making it less expensive for counties.
Transparency was a key word McCuskey used Thursday saying, “What comes into the capital is yours. You deserve to know how it’s being spent in real time.”
Staffers spent the morning going over various parts of the process that county’s must do to complete the budget process, including how to prepare the budget, the timeline of preparation and how to monitor or revise a budget.
County commissions must have their budgets complete by the end of March. Called a Levy-Estimate-Budget Document (or simply, ‘Budget’), the county must determine their expenditures and set a rate for the levy of taxes. Staffers encouraged all in attendance to watch for trends in revenue in their upcoming budget, including in areas such as hotel/motel tax, video lottery and coal severance.
“Budget less revenue and evaluate later in the year,” suggested Tiffany Hess, budget-financial specialist.
A significant amount of time was spent explaining property tax revenue and how the rates are set. Those in the session were instructed in what forms must be completed and allowed time to question how those forms should be handled.
Also explained was the process for revising a budget once it has been sent to the state. Commissions are allowed to move money within a line item without approval of the state auditor; however, if there is a desire to reallocate funds to a different line, a revision must be presented along with all necessary paperwork.
Each attendee at the workshop was given a booklet containing a glossary to assist them in understanding a variety of terms used by the auditor’s office. Statutory provisions and code references were also included to explain the legality of the budget process.