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Darts: RCCC must commit to timely hiring of qualified talent

Dart to Rowan-Cabarrus Community college for avoidable issues that resulted in state auditors finding millions of dollars in understatements and misclassifications in the school’s budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

The school receives funding from a number of entities, including tax dollars from residents of Rowan and Cabarrus counties as well as the state of North Carolina. During the period in question, the school sought approval for and received an OK from voters for a $45 million bond referendum to build a new complex of buildings. That’s why the scale of the errors, a total of $34 million, are worrying. The audit released Monday showed $16.2 million in misclassified construction, $14.6 million of omitted capital assets, $2 million in understated supplies and services expenses and a $1 million overstatement of the college’s balance at the beginning of the current financial period.

The school’s chief financial officer, senior accounting technician and executive director of budgets positions were vacant for months at a time. The chief financial officer position was vacant for nine months — December 2018 to September 2019 — which can’t reasonably be attributed to typical turnover issues. Typical government bureaucracy also can’t reasonably account for seven-month vacancies in the technician and budget director positions.

Auditors for state agencies usually are not alarmists, but they said in the report released Monday that people looking at financial statements could be misinformed about the college’s financial condition, fraud could occur undetected and the RCCC Board of Trustees could make financial decisions based on unreliable or incomplete information.

“College management did not monitor the components of internal control over financial reporting to ensure they were present and functioning throughout the period,” auditors said.

The college says it’s taking the audit “very seriously” and that its business office has been subject to significant turnover. A response to the audit says the college has posted positions, reclassified others and projected dates for making hires. Solutions should also include a continuing commitment to recruiting and hiring qualified people for important open positions in a timely manner as well as keeping top-performing talent around when possible. There’s something to be said for institutional knowledge and expertise.

Dart to county government’s short-sighted decision to eliminate Rowan Express.

When health officials encouraged the public to stay home to slow the spread of COVID-19, a large swath of people in Rowan County listened, which led to falling Rowan Express ridership numbers. Across the country, there was a similar trend.

Falling ridership numbers, however, were cited during discussions about eliminating the local transit service completely. County officials said transit services will instead serve a list of people who need kidney dialysis once per week.

A growing need for kidney dialysis makes sense. Because government provides services rather than businesses intending to make money, it makes sense to ensure people receive the life-saving medical care they need. Falling ridership numbers during a pandemic, however, should not be used to eliminate one transit service to create another. Expenses to run Rowan Express are on the rise, too, but that also shouldn’t be a reason to eliminate the service entirely if it’s useful to the people served.

In a county like Rowan, there won’t be many tears shed for people who used Rowan Express. Salisbury and Rowan County aren’t Europe; communities here are built with personal vehicles in mind as the main mode of transport. Decision-makers do not use public transit to get around in their daily lives. But in a community that’s growing and likely to continue doing so, public transit should be an option for traveling from one point to another.

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