Brittney Burns – Staff Writer
The town of Franklin was randomly selected by the North Carolina Treasurers’ office to comply with federal mandates to participate in an LGERS (Local Government Employees’ Retirement System) audit. Franklin was selected for the audit along with 40 other municipalities, counties, and ABC boards across the state from the state’s treasurers office.
Town Manager Summer Woodard informed the board during the April board meeting that the town was not only mandated to participate, but it would come at a cost of $5,000 to the town, something that had not previously been budgeted.
The unexpected expense was paid for within the existing budget using funds that had not already been utilized, but the town board was unhappy with the mandate and Mayor Bob Scott noted a letter should be sent to Senator Jim Davis and Representative Roger West concerning the matter.
“This seems to me like it’s a little unfair to make the town foot an extra expense above and beyond our budget to satisfy a mandate that’s unfunded by the General Assembly,” Mayor Scott said in April.
Martin Starnes, the audit firm the town contracts with to do the general audit for Franklin will be conducting the audit on May 9.
Scott did send a letter to Senator Davis on April 18 regarding the issue, to which Senator Davis replied to explain to the mayor that while he understands his frustration, the audit mandate is a federal requirement and not something state leaders have control over.
“The LGERS audit required of randomly chosen local government entities by North Carolina Treasurer Janet Cowell’s office is to comply with Federal mandates,” Senator Davis wrote to Mayor Scott. “The current policy of the federal government is an attempt to ensure that local government entities are adequately funding their employees’ retirement liabilities. While I believe that to be a good policy, I have nothing to do with this requirement.”
Senator Davis said that because it is a federal mandate, neither he nor Rep. West have control over the issue.
“I cannot speak to the timing of the requirement, but for you to insinuate Representative West and I are responsible for this unplanned expense seems disingenuous,” wrote Senator Davis. “Considering this requirement occurs on a random basis, the town of Franklin may consider building this expense into each year’s budget to avoid potential shortfall. Should the expense not be required, Franklin can bolster its undesignated fund balance.”
Senator Davis also asked Mayor Scott for a correction to be printed in the paper.
“Considering you inaccurately directed blame for this expense to Representative West and me, using the press as your venue, I expect to read a correction in the next edition following your regularly scheduled town of Franklin Board of Aldermen meeting,” wrote Sen. Davis.
While Senator Davis’ letter was made available to members of the board at Monday night’s meeting, the letter was not addressed and Mayor Scott didn’t speak to the issue during open meeting. Mayor Scott did say Wednesday morning via email that he didn’t feel like his comments at the board meeting or his letter to Senator Davis implied Senator Davis was responsible.
“In looking back over the minutes of the April Town Board minutes and the letter I sent on behalf of the board to Sen. Davis, I can find nothing that would have implied that Sen. Davis or Rep West had anything to do with the audit that cost the town $5,000,” Mayor Scott said Wednesday morning via email. “I did allude, in the April Board meeting, to it being unfunded by the General Assembly but in no way was that to imply that Sen. Davis or Rep. West had anything to do with what the State Auditor’s office required of the town.”