ISLAMORADA -- The release date of a voter-mandated state audit of village finances has been pushed back again, Marilyn Rosetti of the Florida Auditor General's Office told the Free Press last week.
"Right now we're looking at the end of February or early March," she said. "Unfortunately, we got into the review process at our busiest time of year."
Teams of four auditors were camped in Village Hall from early June until early August, reviewing wastewater finances, contracts the village has entered into and the town's financial control procedures, among other items.
Upon the conclusion of the on-site work, Rosetti said she expected the audit to be released in the late fall. She subsequently revised the estimated release date to January, before announcing the latest delay last week.
"The hold was on our end," she said. "It had to do with our projects and assignments. It had nothing to do with the village itself."
Specifically, Rosetti said the office's staff of approximately 250 auditors is statutorily required to release audit reports on 51 school boards, 28 colleges and 11 universities by March 31. Those audits have to be carefully scheduled and sequenced so that all are completed on time.
Special audits, such as the one the Auditor General's Office is conducting in Islamorada, have to be fit in among the annual reports.
The state probe into village finances is being conducted in accordance with a Florida law that allows citizens to petition for just such an audit. Islamorada's petition drive was led by Lower Matecumbe Key resident Sue Miller, who needed just two months to gather signatures from 20 percent of registered village voters, the threshold level that makes a state audit mandatory.
In addition to wastewater finances, the petition asked the state to examine bidding procedures, how the village transfers monies between various funds and the appropriateness of certain types of expenditures. It also alleged "improper or illegal spending by staff without council approval."
Council members have confidently predicted that the audit will turn up no major improprieties. Under state law, the village must pay for the financial probe. The price tag won't be finalized until after the audit is complete, but the council budgeted $100,000 this year to cover the cost
The Auditor General's Office will release a preliminary report to the village a month before the final report is made public. The village will then provide a response to the findings, which will be included in the final document.