Ricky Bejarano jamming numbers

Northern New Mexico College Vice President of Finance Ricky Bejarano checks some numbers while regents break during a June meeting. Northern President Rick Bailey (right) said Bejarano and his business team dug the College, "out of a real mess. There's no other way to put it."

   Sarah Specht and Alan D. Bowers, of Carr Riggs and Ingram CPAs on Aug. 12 presented the 2020 audit to Northern New Mexico College regents. The Board approved the audit unanimously.

    The audit is not yet available to the public until released by the State Auditor, but contains 11 findings, including four material weaknesses, one significant deficiency, one material weakness/material noncompliance and five findings of “other noncompliance.

    Specht told regents it was a modified opinion and the auditors could not render an opinion on fixed assets. The College’s business department is still updating and “cleaning up” the fixed asset list.

    The College engaged the firm for the audit in June 2020 and opted to take a hit in the audit for being late, allowing them to address other issues that otherwise would have also been on the audit.

    Northern shows a solid trend of increased total assets from $38.6 million in 2016 to its current $45.4 million. Specht said the large jump from 2019 to 2020 came from the additional revenue the College realized from the passage of the 2.3 mill levy.

    Liabilities peaked at $45.8 million in 2019 and fell to $33.7 million in 2020. Specht attributed this to the GASB 68 pension liability, which was decreased.

    Northern President Rick Bailey said Monday the College no longer had to carry as high a liability as it did in the past for retirement funds.

    “Every institution has to have a certain amount of liability on its books but the state passed a new rule decreasing that amount,” he said.

    Consequently, the College’s net position increased from $2.7 million in 2019 to $12.1 million in 2020.

    Revenue for the College also trended up from being fairly flat in 2016, 2017 and 2018, then rising to $23.9 million in 2020. The increase was partially attributed to a state injection of $1 million for the Anna Age 8 program, which has since been moved to New Mexico State University.

    The mill levy funds also added to the rise from $23.9 million in 2019 to $28.9 million in 2020.

    Bowers said his team met with Northern’s management team every two weeks during the process.

    Bowers had some “value added” suggestions. The first was IT security, which is a hot button issue with foreign hacking all over the country.

    He made a pitch for CRI’s Florida IT group to assess Northern’s IT environment and cybersecurity.

    He also suggested training.

    He said problems normally arise when someone new starts using a system.

    “Inevitably someone will click somewhere they’re not supposed to and that’s where the problems come.”

    Bailey said the audit was a culmination of four years of work.

    “Our business office has been in the trenches, trying to dig us out of a real mess. There’s no other way to put it,” he said.

    The President’s Award went to the business office because of the work they did, he told the Board.

    He said the next priority was to get to work on capital projects.

    “But this audit is a monumental step forward for the fiscal health of the institution,” he said.

    Board President Mike Martin said it was nice to have a modified opinion the last three years he’s been on the Board.

    Regent Erica Velarde said if  it weren’t for the anti-donation clause, “We’d totally be sending you guys to the spa. You guys have really cleaned up a big mess, you guys didn’t have anything to do with.”

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