Cerro Gordo County Courthouse
220 N Washington Ave Mason City, IA 50401-3254 (641) 421-3028
Kenneth W. Kline, Auditor FAX (641) 421-3139
Date: January 4, 2007
To: Members of the Cerro Gordo County Compensation Board
From: Ken Kline, Cerro Gordo County Auditor
Subject: Responsibilities of the county auditor’s office
The office of the county auditor has multiple responsibilities set by Iowa law and by local policy decisions, all of which responsibilities are diverse and many of which are complex in nature. The Cerro Gordo County auditor’s office consists of eight and one-
half full-time employees in addition to the auditor, no two of which have the same responsibilities. Positions include three deputies, a budget manager, a GIS map maintenance technician, and three and one-half clerks.
The administration of elections is one of the primary duties of the county auditor’s office, and has become more predominant due to recent changes in federal and state election laws. It is also the area of the office in which the auditors’ office has the most interaction with the public. Ironically, proper management of efficient and secure elections has the unintended result that the public has little insight into the substantial and complex issues of that administration.
Prior to the 2000 presidential election problems in Florida, election equipment in Cerro Gordo County consisted of two optical-scan ballot counting machines. With subsequent changes in election laws, we now have two machines for each of twenty-six different precincts, plus a large ballot-scanner for absentee ballots. The effect is that we have 53 machines to manage, including the purchasing, acceptance-testing, replacement, programming, storage, testing, troubleshooting, and training of 180 precinct election officials to open, operate and close each of two different types of machines, as well as transportation to and from the precincts.
For the 2006 general election, changes in election laws required several additional weeks of deputy-level staff time for the setup and programming of 50 different ballot types, the preparation of a required group of 1,500 test ballots, and a comprehensive testing of all election equipment. These additional responsibilities are a substantial increase to the already 3-month long process of administering an election to correctly count the votes of 31,000 registered voters.
Auditors’ offices are required by state law to be open additional hours during the course of elections. Offices are open each of the two Saturdays prior to primary and general elections for voter registration, absentee voting, the return of absentee ballots, and other election business. Also, offices are required to be open until 5:00 p.m. various times in the course of an election for similar reasons. In addition, this office is responsible for the keys to the courthouse, and is often called upon to open or close the building for various reasons. During the two months prior to a major election all of the staff puts in many extra hours. On election days the office is staffed from 6:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. or even midnight or later at primary and general elections.
Despite the priority that elections can take on office staff resources, with or without elections the office still manages regular cyclical responsibilities such as every-other-week payroll and payment of county bills, daily incoming and outgoing mail, weekly clerking of meetings of the board of supervisors, central supply purchasing and inventorying, levying assessments for drainage districts, maintenance of real estate ownership records, management of tax districts and TIF districts, certification of values to cities, schools, townships, etc. for preparation of their budgets, calculation and certification of taxes, implementation of equalization and rollback orders on property values, maintenance of GIS maps, preparation and implementation of county finance reports and budgets, assistance in the review and preparation for the budgets for other county offices and other levy authorities, management of county capital assets, audit assistance for federal and state grant programs, including emergency management, and for special projects such as the CLEAR Project and the Meservey and Thornton sanitary sewer projects, etc.
Computer software programs
Members of the auditor’s office extensively use and are fluent in the standard software
packages such as Microsoft Word, Excel, and Outlook. Also, we are the primary users and/or primary custodians of most the county’s existing sophisticated software
packages including payroll, finance and budget, real estate taxation, voter registration, and geographical information systems (GIS). As with the above software programs, this office will be involved in the next year in the development of programs for the administration of drainage districts, real estate transfers, and capital assets.
Of all the statutory and practical responsibilities of the county auditor’s office, the two most fundamental are maintenance of the public trust in the financial integrity of the county and in the security, accuracy, and integrity of the election process. Failure in these and other responsibilities can mean that official business and financial records are unreliable, that people pay the wrong amount of taxes or levy authorities receive incorrect tax proceeds, that the county is fiscally unsound, or that a person’s vote is
not counted correctly and that the election results are invalid. Success in these responsibilities is heard in the comment, “You must be doing a good job, because we don’t see much about you in the paper”.