Alabama state auditor releases plan to avoid state park shutdown

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler told members of the Tuscaloosa Rotary Club that he has a plan to avoid closing state parks, Tuesday.

The Alabama budget has not passed yet, but if it were to pass in its current form, Governor Robert Bentley said many state services would suffer massive cuts, including state parks. Alabama State Parks announced a contingency plan that would close 15 parks, including Lake Guntersville, Buck’s Pocket and Joe Wheeler in north Alabama, as WHNT News 19 first reported.

Zeigler’s plan, “Save Our Park with Savings,” would save $13 million in government operations, covering the $11 million Alabama State Parks shortage, he told club members.

Zeigler said privatizing the auditing of state agencies would eliminate the Examiners of Public Accounts and its $13 million annual budget. His office said by applying that savings to state parks, no closings would be necessary, and all without a tax increase.

The money for private audits by CPA firms would come from the budget of each individual agency being audited, Zeigler said. None of the agencies being audited in 2016 have budgeted for that expense, so they will have to make cuts in order to foot that bill. “It will be an interesting year,” Zeigler said.

Approximately one-third of state agencies are due for an audit in 2016.

He told Rotarians that audits done by state examiners have been getting farther behind, causing serious problems.

“The audits are not done in time to quickly spot problems, to make needed adjustments, and to plan for the next fiscal year. An audit delayed is an audit denied,” Zeigler said.

The total cost of privatizing the auditing of state agencies will be half of its current cost, he said.

Zeigler said he has e-mailed the entire state legislature about the plan and will follow-up with meetings with legislative leaders. The plan will have to be approved by the legislative process as part of the 2016 budget, now under consideration.

Jim Zeigler has been state auditor for three months. He said he will work on other area of savings in government operations.

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