It may not be much of a job, but somebody’s got to do it. Townships are required to have elected auditors, but it’s not a glamorous title – auditors generally meet only once or twice a year and get little, if any, compensation.
Across Cumberland County, there is seldom any competition for the office.
“It is difficult to get people to run,” said South Middleton Township Manager Barbara Wilson. “This is most likely due to the fact that the job is unnecessary and people are busy.”
“The effort to register for the ballot and obtain signatures takes time and the compensation does not make this a hotly contested seat,” suggested Bonnie Myers, North Newton Township secretary. But, she added, “For those who have an accounting background and are looking to give back to their community, it’s a great way to serve. It takes the heart of a community-minded individual.”
According to the second class township code, the board of auditors meets annually to determine the current-year compensation for supervisors who are also employed by the township.
The board also is to audit, settle and adjust the accounts of all elected or appointed township officials and of the boards or agencies that received or disbursed funds during the preceding calendar year.
The auditors may also make an audit of the dockets, transcripts and other official records of the district justices to determine the amount of fines and costs due to the township.
Under the code, each auditor is eligible to receive $10 for each hour needed to complete the duties of office, up to $1,000 for municipalities with a population of 10,000 or less and no more than $2,000 for municipalities with a population of more than 10,000.
Auditors are also eligible for travel costs incurred in performing their duties, such as mileage.
But job duties vary from municipality to municipality.
In North Newton, the auditors reorganize annually each January and meet later that month to audit the township treasurer’s accounts and again in February to audit the tax collector’s books.
The auditors must file an annual audit report with the state Department of Community and Economic Development and must publish each March an audit report of the township general fund, liquid fuels fund and any other fund that may have been set up.
In South Middleton, auditors meet each January.
“Their only job is to set the rate of pay for township supervisors who work at the township,” Wilson said.
Occasionally, a special meeting of the auditors is called, such as last year, for when the South Middleton supervisors wanted to hire Supervisor Bryan Gembusia as computer consultant.
In West Pennsboro Township, the auditors review and approve the rates for the manager’s and treasurer’s bonds and also set the rate of compensation for the emergency management coordinator, according to Township Manager John Epley.
Penn Township auditors set wages, complete the audit of township books and prepare the DCED reports.
North Middleton Township auditors set the wages of working supervisors, but there are no supervisors who also work as township employees, according to Township Manager Deborah Ealer.
According to the township code, auditors must live in the township for at least one year before their election and they may not hold any other position in the township during their terms.
Elected auditors do not need to have an accounting background.
“Our three auditors have business backgrounds but don’t actually need to fulfill any requirements except residency,” Wilson said.
“Specialized training is not a requirement, but certainly it would be a benefit,” Epley said. “An honest, working person knowing what is fair and just is really a true requirement.”
The Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors offers one-day training courses for elected auditors.
“Two of our auditors have taken advantage of that training,” Myers said.
Compensation varies by municipality.
In South Middleton, auditors are offered the $10 per hour if they actually complete an audit, Wilson said.
“Ours are always paid the minimum fee but never take it,” she said. “They do it as a service to the township.”
In North Newton, the auditors each receive less than $100 and taxes are withheld from that, Myers said.
In West Pennsboro, auditors receive about $45 once a year Epley said.
Many townships have hired professional auditors to review township accounts, leaving the elected auditors little to do other than set the salaries for supervisors who also are employed by the township.
“We hire an auditing firm to audit our accounts and have since I have been at the township,” Wilson said. “We only have (elected auditors) because it is a code requirement. A base amount of pay could be established for a supervisor much the same as the code does for the supervisors’ maximum pay, and increase it by the cost of living adjustment every year if they need to do that. We don’t need to have people run for office to do that.”
But the law is the law. “The law says you have to have (elected auditors),” said Elam Herr of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors. “They can be a very useful part of the process.”
But, Herr said, with many municipalities hiring CPA firms, the elected auditors duties are often cut back.
Herr also said, “As budgets get larger, the lay auditor could have problems making sure they are doing an appropriate accounting of the audit.”
Despite the drawbacks, elected auditors are not yet outdated, he said. “In some parts of the state elected auditors are very functional and it’s not difficult to get people to run (for office).”
Lucky to have them
South Middleton Township has three elected auditors, most of whom were appointed to serve in the roles because few residents run for office.
“We have three great people fulfilling the requirement,” Wilson said. “They do a good job with the minimal amount of things they are required to do.”
“We have been fortunate in that we have always had someone at least come forward as a write-in candidate,” Myers said.
“West Pennsboro Township has been fortunate in that several of our auditors have been here long term,” Epley said. “If that were not the case, getting someone to run for the position would most likely be very difficult.”