In 54 of the 58 counties, the Auditor-Controller is an independent, nonpartisan elected office established to provide various accounting and property tax administration services to the county government, special districts, schools and cities. The four counties with appointed officers are: 1) San Francisco, Controller appointed for eight years; 2) Santa Clara, appointed Director of Finance; 3) Los Angeles, appointed Auditor-Controller; and 4) San Diego, appointed Auditor and Controller. The Auditor-Controller is the chief accounting officer of the county responsible for budget control, disbursements and receipts, and financial reporting. In addition, this office is responsible for audits of certain agencies within the county. Also, the position may be combined with the treasurer-tax collector position, with the title Director of Finance, and/or county recorder, or even the county clerk.
The accounting/auditing authority and responsibilities of the Auditor-Controller are generally defined in the California Government Code. This position serves as the chief accounting officer of the county. The Auditor-Controller establishes the accounting policies and procedures for county government. In addition, this position may serve as the chief accounting officer for some or all of the special districts located within the county. Specifically, this position is responsible for budget control, issuing warrants (checks) for payments, recording receipts of revenues, payroll, accounting for assets and liabilities such as fixed assets, accounts receivable/payable, long-term debt, and preparation of the county’s financial statements.
In the area of auditing, an Auditor-Controller may have an audit staff to perform audits of the functions of the county depending on the size of the county, . However, this position is responsible for ensuring that certain mandatory audits are performed periodically by either internal staff or contracted certified public accountants. Examples of mandatory audits include: special districts, county treasury, courts, probation, child development, tax collector, retirement, food stamps, and joint power agencies. For non-mandated audits, some counties have audit committees that determine which agencies will be audited. In other counties, the Board may meet with the Auditor-Controller to establish audit policy or an annual schedule of audits. The Board of Supervisors, pursuant to the Government Code, arranges for the independent audits of the county’s financial statement prepared by the Auditor-Controller.
In accordance with various Government, Revenue and Taxation, Education, and Health and Safety Code Sections, the Auditor-Controller is also responsible for property taxation administration. The specific duties include: controlling the tax roll, calculating the tax and general obligation bond rates, accounting for property tax receipts, allocating property tax revenues to all taxing agencies, and reconciling with the tax collector.