By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Thursday, June 1, 2017, State Auditor Jim Zeigler (R) announced that he will have to become a “field auditor” to keep his office operating after the Legislature cut his budget for the third year in a row.
Zeigler said, “This marks the third year in a row that our budget has been cut. We are $368,400 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.”
When Zeigler took office in January 2015, the office had $1,066,922 to operate. That will drop to just $762,575 starting in October 1 of this year. That represents a cut of 28.5 percent since FY2015.
Zeigler said, “We have already dropped from 11 full-time and 1 part-time to 6 full-time and 2 part-time employees. We dropped from 5 field auditors to 2 full-time and 1 part-time to audit the entire state. The only option left is for me to replace one of the field auditors myself.”
Zeigler will have to perform the property inventory duties of a field auditor in addition to his normal duties as State Auditor.
Zeigler said that the unusual move is “an emergency measure to keep the State Auditor’s office operating following three years of budget cuts,” which he says is $368,400 below the minimum needed to audit the state’s $1.9 billion worth of State property items.
Zeigler made the announcement in a speech to the Capitol Rotary Club in Montgomery on Thursday.
Zeigler said, “We also made the following cuts: 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; and reduced office space that was being leased.”
Zeigler said there is nothing else left to cut. “These cutbacks had already been made before this third budget cut. There is nothing left to cut. It is frustrating. We don’t have 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.
Zeigler has been sharply critical of 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.