By Casey Crowley

Baker County is over nine months late in submitting its 2016-2017 fiscal year financial audit to the state, and the 2017-18 audit won’t be finished by the Dec. 31, 2018, deadline either.

County officials say the delay has to do with the county contracting with a different accounting firm to do the audit.

The county’s tardiness has triggered a three-year-old state law that allows the state to withhold 10 percent of some revenue, such as cigarette and liquor taxes, that is distributed to counties and cities.

The county receives about $81,500 per year in liquor taxes and about $15,000 in cigarette taxes.

Amy Dale, the municipal audit manager for the Oregon Secretary of State’s audit division, said Baker County has been subject to the 10-percent revenue sharing withholding law since Sept. 1 of this year.

She did not know how much money, if any, has been withheld. Dale said some agencies distribute revenue sharing monthly, while others do so four times per year.

The county operates on a fiscal year that runs from July 1 to June 30.

The audit for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2017, was due to the state by Dec. 31, 2017.

The county did not meet that deadline, and Dale said the state does not have a firm date from the county for when the audit will be submitted.

Dale said it is “highly unusual” for the state to grant an extension beyond one year, which would be Dec. 31, 2018. Baker County has not applied for another extension.

Baker County is the only one of Oregon’s 36 counties that has not submitted its 2017 audit.

Curry County was the only other holdout, but it submitted its audit on July 10, 2018.

Baker County’s failure to meet the deadline coincides with a change in its auditing firm.

For more than a dozen years previously, Guyer and Associates of Baker City had handled the county’s audit.

In May 2017, Guyer and Associates notified the county that the firm would not be doing the audit for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2017.

Megan Adams, a CPA for Guyer and Associates, said the firm is moving away from doing municipal audits due to the size of its staff and the time required.

She said the county audit takes about 525 hours.

On Sept. 6, 2017, the county approved a contract with the accounting firm of Pauly Rogers and Co. of Tigard, one of two bidders for the job.

(The other is a firm in Hermiston.)

The county’s request for an extension from Dec. 20, 2017, stated that “County’s auditor resigned late in the year so the County had to hire new auditors who did not have adequate time to complete audit.”

County Commissioner Bruce Nichols, who has been a CPA for 34 years, said the 2017 audit has been close to completion for “quite some time” but hasn’t been finished due to “issues that are going on that have not been resolved.”

See more in the Oct. 10, 2018, issue of the Baker City Herald.