New board members confused over $60,000 discovered in county coffers

As members of the new Columbia Health District board prepare to receive a final audit of the district's long-scrutinized financials, new money questions have emerged with the discovery of two checks totaling more than $60,000.

The county received the checks - one for about $21,000 and another for more than $39,000 - from the outgoing CHD near the turn of the fiscal year, July 1.

County Commissioner Henry Heimuller, who works closely with the new CHD board, said it's unclear where all the money will go, adding some of it may go back to the soon-to-dissolve health district.

What is clear is the $21,000 is intended to cover the costs of a November ballot initiative that will likely dissolve the health district outright. It's unclear whether the full amount is required to hold the election, however.

What's required of the check for $39,000 is less clear, Heimuller said.

That money was set aside by the previous health district for payroll taxes for public health employees that are expected to come due later in the year.

When oversight of public health moved from the CHD to a still-developing board at the end of the last fiscal year, money for all previously unpaid public health employee liabilities, such as taxes and unused vacation pay, transferred from health district coffers to the county.

Heimuller said he's still awaiting a reply from the state regarding how much of the $39,000 is necessary for the payroll taxes. If there's leftover money, the CHD will receive it, he said.

But that may not be good enough for the current CHD board, who say they expect to see all of the money.

'I say that $39,000 should come back to the CHD,' said newly installed CHD Chairwoman Tammy Maygra.

The confusion over the money - where it came from and how it can be used - underscores claims made by current CHD board members that the previous board participated in faulty accounting practices, Maygra added.

'They're not just doing it to the new board, they're doing it to the voters,' she said.

She said she has high hopes for the soon-to-be-released audit, though, and expects it to answer some of her questions.

The health district's auditor briefed board members on his draft report Tuesday morning. Board members expect to receive his final audit later this month.

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