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Douglas County gets good marks on financial management

Audit of the county's financial statements reveal improvements in net financial position, fund balance

Government Center in Superior.
Government Center Boardroom, Superior, Wisconsin.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — Douglas County’s financial statements accurately reflect its financial picture, according to the 2021 audit by Wipfli LLP.

The auditor issued an unmodified opinion of financial statements of governmental and business-type activities Thursday, Sept. 1 to the administration committee.

It represents that financial statements are presented in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles in the United States, said Rob Ganschow of Wipfli.

“It’s the opinion that you, as a governing body, are looking for,” Ganschow said. “… It provides reasonable, but not absolute, assurance that financial statements are free from material misstatement.”

The audit revealed no material weaknesses, significant deficiencies or instances of noncompliance on the county’s internal control over financial reporting.

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The county’s net financial position, including assets, increased by $5.6 million and the fund balance increased by $2.4 million in 2021.

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“We know sales tax has been strong in Douglas County,” said Supervisor Alan Jaques, chair of the administration committee.

“Overall, on a governmentwide basis, financial results for 2021 were positive,” Ganschow said.

However, he said in testing federal and state programs, the auditors found one reportable, but immaterial, instance of noncompliance in the human services department. He said auditors found one instance where a vendor providing services in the children’s long-term service program exceeded $10,000 without a signed contract required by the state. He said it was a simple oversight.

In talking with the department management, Ganschow said procedures are going to be put in place to mitigate the issue and the program will be tested again next year to ensure those procedures are operating as expected. He said beyond that single issue, the county is doing a good job managing federal and state programs.

“Overall, financially for the county for this past year, in my mind, I believe the county ended up in a good financial position based on the economy and everything that was going on,” Ganschow said. “ … The fund balance of the county is healthy and is allowing it to absorb some of these … ebbs and flows in expenses, as well as funding. Is there enough there to solve the all county’s problems? I don’t think any county has enough resources on hand to do that, but I think there is cushion there to fill in some holes where needed in the county’s budget.”

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com.
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