Alpine auditor an important part of local government

For some the word "auditor" raises hackles, for others it instills fear. But not in Alpine County where it is an important and respected position in county government.

For many of us the way government works is a mystery; our main interest is that it provides the services that we expect and does so in a fair and efficient way. It's only after one delves into what the people behind the desks do does one get an appreciation of how complex the business end of government is, even for a small county such as Alpine. The work of the auditor furnishes a window on how it's done.

Alpine County's Auditor is Randi Makley. She serves as a bridge between the assessor and the treasurer/tax collector. The assessor determines the value of people's property and the auditor computes the tax bill, at the rate of 1 percent of the property's value. That holds for most of the county unless there is a special assessment, as in Bear Valley for fire protection or in

Kirkwood for paying off bonds. In turn the auditor passes the information on to the treasurer/tax collector who sends out the tax notices and sees that the taxes are paid. No one is joyous about paying taxes but we view it, or at least should, as a duty of citizenship. In turn those taxes pay the county's bills for services and supplies.

But Randi's responsibility is much wider and affects all aspects of county government.

Working with the treasurer/tax collector she must estimate revenues and expenditures for the coming budget year. She also audits each department's finances and must stay abreast of changes in laws and practices and regularly receives CDs from the State Board of Equalization on changes. Her work is monitored by the board and there is an annual audit of her department by an outside accounting firm.

Ms. Makely noted that financial requirements are more strict since the illegal and other questionable practices by Enron and other companies. The changes are for greater transparency and accountability; for example it will be necessary to show how funds will be put aside to pay for employees' retirement, which at present is not mandatory.

However Randi's biggest job is preparing the yearly county budget. Each department submits its proposed budget and the Board of Supervisors holds two to three days of hearings. The proposed county budget is available to the public for two weeks with copies in the county library in Markleeville, at the one in Bear Valley, in the county clerk's office and in the Indian colony. Individual departments may request revisions but the supervisor's decision is final.

Like the assessor whose story was previously in the Alpine Page the auditor is also an elective office, and Makley is in her second term. Her first one, in 2002 was won by three votes but in 2006 it was by two-thirds. In both elections Randi was opposed by Marilyn McKenzie the previous auditor. This is Randi's first experience in elective politics, and she feels her greatest challenge is seeing that changes brought about by new laws are adopted in all departments.

"Success," she said, "requires that one be a good diplomat."

Makley has a background of 25 years in public accounting including 19 years teaching business and finance to high school students and adults. She and her husband Mike have lived in Woodfords for 17 years. Mike has just retired after 34 years teaching history and English to children at risk. Their daughter Brieanna Cross is a three-year medical student in Denver. Randi's stepson Matt recently received his Ph.D. from Arizona State University and teaches in the history department of a state college in Denver, specializing in Native American studies.

-- Irving Krauss is a Markleeville resident. He, Joyce DeVore, Bill Morgan and Nancy Thornburg share this space


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