What's the deal with this issue? I remember we talked about it in a seminar in the last year or so. It was my understanding that we did not have to include Hot Check Fund $ in Budget. Our County Auditor hit me up several months ago and I told her the Hot Check Fund $ did not have to be budgeted. Now today I get my proposed budget from the County Judge, which included a budget item for Hot Check $.
I handle it as a "is this a hill worth dying for" issue. I just turn it in plenty big enough. I don't have to get permission for expenditures ahead of time. The commissioners don't approve my expenditures out of it afterwards. My auditor claims that her software will not let her pay out anything that is not in "the budget". I have no practical problems in using the money. John Hutchison CA Hansford
I submit a budget every year pursuant to the requirements of the local govt. code and the CCP. I don't have the reference to the statutes handy but a few years ago when I researched it, there was enough there to make me think I had to sumbit one. I will tell you it is a bare bones estimate of income and broad catagories of disbursements. As far as I know, there is no oversight by any one and no Comm. Ct. approval required to amend it etc. as the court has no control over how the funds are spent. Additionally, we submit the monthly reports to the auditor and the clerk and comm ct. as required(or used to be required) by statute, but no one ever reviews them because they can't control the expeditures so they don't bother. If you need the cites to some of the stautes, let me know and I can send you a copy of my "budget" and reports.
Generally, these demands for a budget stem from confusion (whether intentional or not) over the nature of the fund. Our DA brothers and sisters must submit a budget for their chapter 59 forfeiture fund expenditures to the commissioners court. See Tex. Code Crim. Proc. art. 59.06(d). We CAs don't generally deal with chapter 59 funds (except for those who have felony jurisdiction), so it isn't really a matter of concern to us. Although hot check funds are subject to audit, there is no statutory requirement of submission of a budget under article 102.007 as there is under article 59.06(d). With that said, however, those above have provided wise counsel about picking one's battles. My only caveat would be that a sudden insistence on a budget should be greeted with a polite suspicion that the auditor and court may similarly be unaware that reducing the amount of budgeted county funds for salaries to offset supplements provided through the hot check fund is not permissible. See Op. Tex. Att'y Gen. No. JM-313 (1985). We, too, submit a budget, but it primarily discloses hot check expenditures for salary supplements. Neither the commissioners court nor the auditor has thus far been too concerned about incidental expenditures from the fund, so long as we report them (which occurs fairly automatically, since our treasurer cuts all those checks, anyway).
Posts: 1233 | Location: Amarillo, Texas, USA | Registered: March 15, 2001
Hot check and asset forfeiture funds are controlled by elected prosecutors. But, as suggested above, you should want to submit to auditing review by the financial people in your county. Not so they can have control over the money, which they don't, but so they can reassure you (and the public) that the money is being processed and spent according to the law and sound accounting principles.
This process often requires repeated education of county officials, as they forget or never knew how these accounts work. We patiently provide them with copies of the law and memos and attorney general opinions, while always thanking them for their help and support.
By rejecting their support and hiding away your accounts, you create suspicion and envy. That is to be avoided.
Good advice from all. Scott and John, yes we have all expenditures from the HCF co signed by treasurer and auditor. And I'm careful about choosing a hill on which to be impaled, esp. in Spearman! However, after decades of tom foolery with the HCF, I cleaned it up. And now all of a sudden, the auditor wants to put an imaginary figure in the budget to reflect HCF income. She didn't come up with that idea on her own. So why do it? Just to appease the dragon lady?
I don't know how you come up with a figure in advance. The business in town that supplies my office with the most hot checks informed me recently they are getting a machine to debit the account right at that moment and so it will eliminate all of their hot checks. I have no way of predicting what next year will be like. If that little privately-owned shop can get one of those machines, I'm sure the chains will too and there will be very little hot check business.