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Lake County Council suspends additional funds

The Lake County Council is suspending new appropriations until the auditor’s office completes documentation showing the county’s full cash balances.

Council President Christine Cid, D-East Chicago, said any new appropriations from the general fund should be delayed until the council’s March meeting, when it meets Tuesday, to give the office more time to complete the work.

Scott Schmal, the county’s financial director, said this is the first time the auditor’s office has tried to close accounts without HTC, the consultant hired to transition the county to a new Oracle accounting platform.

The transition was thrown into chaos last year when the Indiana State Board of Accounts ended its audit of the county’s finances in August because it did not have the necessary forms showing accurate cash balances for the SBOA to review.

Officials then hired accounting firm Baker Tilly to determine what went wrong, fix the problem with the forms and create a path forward to make sure the migration and software were working properly.

Schmal said he recommended the council give the auditor’s office a little more time to make sure everything is correct before it is shipped out of state. Scott said that if they use a figure that is not finalized (regardless of whether it is more or less than the current cash balance) and it changes once it is finalized, that change should be sent to DLGF.

“It’s not because I’m worried we don’t have money,” Schmal said. “It’s a matter of trust.”

Any new funding request must be sent to the Local Government Department of Finance for approval. DLGF requires financial information as part of the approval process and is currently still being reconciled.

“I don’t want to have reliability issues with DLGF. They are not with them now. “We want to make sure we use exact numbers, not estimates,” he said.

Auditor John Petalas said the office knew the account balances down to the bank statements, but the paperwork wasn’t quite ready for DLGF. He said the office would be ready at the council’s next meeting.

Petalas said the office meets with Baker Tilly weekly and is pleased with the work done. The company aims to prepare the 2022 forms it needs to complete the SBOA’s audit by March 1.

“Overall, everything is going well. Everything is going well,” Petalas said. When asked how he felt about moving to the Oracle platform, Petalas said it was “a thousand times better now.”

cnapoleon@chicagotribune.com

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