Audit faults Camas on management of program

Failure to collect enough money spurs $117K loss

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

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The city of Camas didn't effectively manage a set-aside fund used to buy new equipment and vehicles, according to the Washington State Auditor's Office.

Between 2010 and 2012, the city failed to collect enough money from its departments to fix or replace equipment, resulting in an estimated loss of $117,000, the auditor's report says.

City departments, including police and public works, pay a fixed monthly rate, later used for the upkeep of vehicles. In the report, the auditor's office warned that because of the low rates -- unchanged since 2008 -- the city could be improperly shifting costs to restricted accounts. The city collected more than $1 million in 2012 for the fund. The auditor's report indicated that was not enough.

The city council last summer adopted new rates for the fund to recover lost revenue, but those rates were never implemented, resulting in a loss of an additional $78,280, according to the auditor's report.

The city operates on a set schedule for replacing equipment and vehicles, and it has deferred some of that work, citing a lack of money, according to the audit.

Meanwhile, the city said its rates were adequate because of economic pressure on departments. In its response to the audit, the city wrote that its deferment of purchasing new equipment and adjusting future rates were "prudent … given the competing demands on limited resources."

"The reason (the new rates) weren't implemented was because they were too high," Mayor Scott Higgins said. "That would have taken money out of the general fund."

Lack of communication

Higgins acknowledged there'd been a lack of communication between city departments. He said the city would address the issue in its 2014 audit without raising the rates too high.

The audit concluded the city hadn't dedicated resources to analyze and develop a complete rate structure to recover all costs, and failed to implement the approved 2012 rates after the city heard concerns from affected departments.

It recommends the city establish rates that ensure each department pays an equitable share of replacement and maintenance costs, and institute internal controls to ensure rates adopted by city council are implemented.

Tyler Graf: 360-735-4517; http://twitter.com/col_smallcities; tyler.graf@columbian.com