At some point, the Allen City Commission must come to terms with the fact that it provides hardly any services for the people who pay taxes to keep the city afloat.
The city pays absolutely nothing for fire protection for a volunteer fire department located less than a mile from city hall, and it does nothing to provide water and sewage services to residents, as Prestonsburg provides those services in Allen.
Allen spent around $30,000 in municipal road aid it received last year — while skirting bidding laws — to patch and pave several areas while not knowing how much the city was paying, per ton, for that asphalt.
And now, the city has pretty much decided to fund even fewer services for its taxpayers in the upcoming fiscal year. They are dropping police protection and city clerk services to part-time, laid off a maintenance worker, effective July 1, cut out the AIRMED emergency medical transport contract and eliminated funding for city streets as well. They did all of that as members also tackled with the decision of leaving streetlights on for safety, or turning them off because Allen cannot afford to pay the bill.
This city has not had an audit since the 2008 fiscal year, and Allen City officials have known about the city’s audit delinquencies since at least 2016, when we first reported on it.
The state upped the ante on a law that now requires the withholding of all state funds until audit delinquencies are corrected, and Allen officials fear they do not have enough money to keep the city operating, let alone hire an auditor to make sense of the financial mess that has piled up in all of those years.
The auditor they did hire in 2016 quit in 2017 because he reported the city was missing invoices: 83 percent of them in 2013, 42 percent of them in 2014 and 54 percent of them in 2015 and he reported the city lacked other documentation, including reconciled bank statements.
All of these issues come with the backdrop of other revelations that were brought to light by officials on Thursday.
As they reported, up until Thursday, the city’s maintenance supervisor has been buying items without purchase orders and the city clerk does not know how much money the city has because the mayor keeps the checkbook and does not reconcile financial records.
Officials reported the city has $21,700 in its account, but the clerk said she doesn’t know if that’s accurate because she only receives the bank statements, which are a month behind.
Allen has existed for more than 100 years, and its officials have been elected with 30- or 40-something votes (or fewer) each, in recent years. Yet the city’s residents have been paying property and insurance taxes to keep the city plugging along. They should be outraged. They should be attending every meeting to voice that outrage. Kentucky law gives them the right to sue every Allen commission member for failing to comply with audit laws, and it also gives them the right, as taxpayers, to ask the state auditor’s office to come in and do the audits needed in Allen.
Frankly, it is shocking that Allen taxpayers have not already made that request.
It’s a shame our state auditor’s office has allowed this shenanigan to continue for so long in Allen. That office sent a letter to Allen last year, asking the city to outline its plans for coming into compliance. The city offered excuses, not a real plan, blaming the lack of an audit on the auditor who quit and saying they’ll get it done as soon as possible.
Since then, the city has not advertised for an auditor, it has not posted anything about needing an auditor on its Facebook page, and, even though some officials have repeatedly asked for it, the city has not brought the auditor who some say will do the job to city hall for a meeting.
Allen has taken no substantial steps to fix its financial reporting issues. The city’s financial recording-keeping has improved, but it’s still a mess.
The commission has a standing order to “read” all bills into the minutes without approval, and that task is only rarely completed in meetings, with officials saying bill lists will be emailed to members after the meetings. On Thursday, bills were inflated with Mayor Sharon Woods saying they were higher because they were paid late.
Allen City Commission members do not receive nor approve financial reports telling them how much money the city has in the bank. One commissioner asked the city clerk on Thursday to start providing that total to them monthly.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: The state auditor’s office should come in immediately, gain access to all city records and financial information and find out once and for all what Allen taxpayers have been paying for.
If the city closes its doors, as officials suggest it might, then fine, let it close its doors. But, please, for the sake of Allen taxpayers, don’t let them close the doors without accountability.