Staff graphic by Boris Ladwig. Data source: Gateway Indiana
Staff graphic by Boris Ladwig. Data source: Gateway Indiana
Boris Ladwig and Laura Lane, Herald-Times

SPENCER — Despite years of warnings from state agencies about inadequate financial controls, ineffective oversight and bloated budgets, Owen County officials burned through more than $4 million in cash reserves in six years.

Now the county coffers are bare. County leaders have cut positions. And they plan to raise the local income tax to the maximum allowable by law.

While multiple Owen County officials have been convicted of financial crimes in the past few years, one for defrauding the county of hundreds of thousands of dollars, the bulk of the county’s fiscal problems is a result of overspending, according to a Herald-Times analysis of a decade of financial and audit reports.

Audits document problems

The audit reports, from the Indiana State Board of Accounts, reveal a troubling pattern of inadequate checks and balances in various departments. The reports are littered with warnings about lack of training, lack of oversight, lack of control systems and lack of segregation of duties as well as overdrawn cash balances and financial reporting errors.

“There was no evidence that a proper internal control structure existed in the County,” auditors wrote in 2018. “The failure to establish these controls enabled material misstatements to remain undetected.”

Deficit:Owen County plans layoffs, possible 2022 tax increase

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