As the chief financial officer of the county, the auditor oversees all fiscal action, ensuring that funds are used properly. Before the county commission approves payment of bills, the auditor checks all of the requests for payments.
The auditors office handles all aspects of county payroll checks, related reports, and benefits records. They are required to prepare year end financial statement. However, most auditors also prepare quarterly statements, and many provide commissions with monthly statements.
The auditors office is the hub of every courthouse. As defined by the state century code, the auditor is the chief financial officer, the elections officer, and secretary to the county commission. Most auditors are also responsible for a broad range of other administrative duties.
Auditors are elected to four year terms. They take office on April 1. In some counties, the position is becoming an office appointed by the commission. However, election will likely continue as the most popular means of choosing the chief financial officer of the county.
The County Auditors Association was formed in the early 1900's to help the 53 county auditors in North Dakota keep up to date with changing methods of administration and with laws affecting their offices. The Auditors Association also monitors legislative action. An annual summer meeting is held, along with occasional training sessions through the year. The auditors are also active members of the Association of Counties and are represented on the Executive Committee.
The county auditor is the election administrator for primary, general and special county, state and federal elections. Effective in 1994 city elections will also be held in conjunction with primary elections. The auditor trains election workers and prepares, distributes and tabulates ballots. The auditor is also part of the board which canvasses, or examines, election results. The Secretary of State certifies the results.
The auditor schedules meetings, prepares agendas, and takes minutes at commission meetings. Board members may ask the auditor to process correspondence or research county records to provide them with accurate information. The auditor also acts as secretary for the county park board and the zoning board.
One of the most important jobs is riding herd on the budget process, which begins and ends in the auditors office. Sometime after the fiscal year begins on January 1, the auditor starts preparing the budget for the following year by compiling revenue, expense, and levy estimates. By summer a preliminary budget is ready for the commissioners to examine. The final budget is approved by the commission in October.
The auditor also computes market and taxable land valuation for taxation purposes, and generates tax statements and lists. Other tax related duties include preparing tax abstracts, personal property reports, and homestead credit reports. Tax abatements approved by the commission are also processed.
The auditor assists townships with budget preparation. Mill levies are calculated for all taxing districts (cities, schools, townships, fire districts, water resource boards, park districts). The auditors office disburses tax money collected for these political subdivisions at the appropriate time.
All deeds, patents, and contract for deeds brought to the Register of Deeds office for recording must be transferred by the auditors office, to certify that delinquent taxes are paid. Recent legislative changes now require all current and delinquent taxes be paid before a deed can be recorded. The auditor maintains records of county owned property, obtained through tax proceedings. He or she also maintains records of legal land descriptions for taxation purposes.
The county depends on receiving the estimated tax revenue in order to pay for all of the services in the budget. However, sometimes people don't or can't pay their taxes. If the taxes aren't fully paid by October 15, they are considered delinquent. If they aren't paid for three years, the auditor serves a foreclosure notice, and the county becomes owner of the property.
The auditor prepares tax deeds on all land foreclosures and conducts a sale of property on the 3rd Tuesday in November. Private sales of foreclosed property are held throughout the year.
In many counties, the auditor assumes the duties of a personnel director, handling personnel files, information on group insurance programs, flexible compensation programs, and personnel policies. Often the auditor serves as liaison between the commission and county employee.