By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Friday, May 26, 2017, State Auditor Jim Zeigler (R) said that three consecutive years of budget cuts have left his office with less appropriations than they need to do the job.
Zeigler says the amount appropriated, $762,575.00, is 2.78 less than the amount received during the fiscal year 2007, and below the minimum level needed to run his office.
Zeigler said, “This marks the third year in a row that our budget has been cut. We are $368,400.00 below sea level. With the severe cuts the previous two years, we cannot do our constitutional job of property inventories with this latest cut. We had already cut everything we could after the last two budget cuts, so there is nothing left to cut.”
Zeigler has been sharply critical of former Governor Robert Bentley and led efforts to remove the Governor and perhaps, not so coincidentally, the State Legislature has targeted the Auditor’s office with cuts that are in greater levels than other State agencies. When Zeigler took office in January 2015, the office had $1,066,922.00 to operate. With three cutbacks in a row, the office will have only $762,575.00 starting October 1 of this year. That represents a cut of 28.5 percent since FY2015.
Zeigler said, “We have already dropped from eleven full-time and one part-time to six full-time and two part-time employees. We dropped from five field auditors to two full-time and one part-time to audit the entire State.
Zeigler said that he has made the following changes in an effort to cut his budget:
- Discontinued the cell phone contract for the auditors
- Cut office supply budget
- Delayed replacing aging vehicles used by auditors
- Transferred three vehicles to other agencies to reduce insurance since we have lost field auditors
- Cut overnight travel and only allow daily travel by the auditors
- Reduced the number of miles each auditor is allowed to travel from their home base to reduce vehicle fuel and maintenance costs
- Delayed replacing computers and printers
- Cut out state travel to national property management conferences
- Reduced office space that was being leased.
Zeigler said, “These cutbacks had already been made before this third budget cut. There is nothing left to cut. It is frustrating. We don’t have any good options left.”
Zeigler says the budget his office was appropriated this Session “was a Gov. Bentley budget. The amount set by the initial Bentley budget did not change during the legislative process.”
The State Auditor is responsible for inventorying state property items worth $500.00 or more plus all weapons and sensitive items. The Auditor serves on the Board of Adjustment deciding claims against the State, appoints voter registrars in each county, and serves on other boards. The actual audits of State agencies are now handled by the Public Examiner’s Office. The Legislature took those powers from the Auditor during a power grab in the 1930s.
There has been some talk in Montgomery of eliminating the Auditors office and moving its inventory functions to the Public Examiner’s office, but that would require a constitutional amendment.
Click here to see the 2017 State General Fund Budget.