Clerk of Court Financials
The Florida Constitution outlines checks and balances in local government by establishing the independent office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller as a public trustee tasked with safeguarding public records and public funds. The Clerk and Comptroller serves as the County's Chief Financial Officer, Treasurer and Auditor, Clerk to the Polk County Board of County Commissioners, Clerk of the Circuit Court, and County Recorder. These responsibilities vary in the ways that they are funded, and therefore portions of the budget have different revenue sources, expenditure rules, and different approval authorities.
As a constitutional office, the Clerk's office is required to have those expenditures, revenues, and operations audited. To maintain transparency and uphold public trust, independent financial audits are available to the public.
The Clerk has responsibility for the financial operations both for the county government and the court activities. For county government, this responsibility includes the Board of County Commissioners but does not include the other Constitutional Officers in county government, including the Sheriff, Tax Collector, Property Appraiser, and Supervisor of Elections. In order to maximize overall efficiency, the Clerk uses some of the same employees to provide services for the Board of County Commissioners and the Clerk's office. The Internal Auditing function is included in the Finance budget, although Internal Audit is not operationally assigned to Finance. The Clerk has approval authority for this budget.
Official Records & Administration
The Clerk collects recording fees that fund this operation. In addition to the recording of official records, centralized administrative functions including human resources, purchasing, mail, and general management are provided by Administration. In addition, specialized services such as archives and central filing are housed in Administration. Unspent recording revenues are returned to the County. The Clerk has approval authority for this budget.
Following a 2004 Constitutional Amendment approved by Florida voters, the Florida Legislature assumed responsibility for funding the budget for the clerk's court-related services. This funding was accomplished completely through fees and service charges for court users. Prior to this time, court services provided by the clerk were a county-funded responsibility and were only partially funded by fees and service charges. After 2004 the County retained the responsibility for funding some court-related costs including facilities, communications, and shared technology.
The Legislature also created the Clerks of Court Operations Corporation (CCOC) to assist clerks in the development of their budget and to approve those budgets within statutory guidelines. Court related services are funded from a portion of the court fines and fees the clerk collects. During the 2009 Legislative session, the clerks' budgets were capped statewide, and beginning July 1, 2009, clerk court-related budgets are a part of the appropriation process.
Clerks are responsible for assisting in collecting court-ordered child support payments. The Clerk has entered into a contract whereby the Federal government reimburses the Clerk for the cost incurred in providing this service. These services are provided by employees in the Courts Department and their time is captured and not included in our court-related budget.
The Clerk is responsible for his own technology, except for shared systems funded by the County per Florida Statutes. Florida law provides a fee per page for documents recorded in Official Records to fund both the software and hardware technology costs, which is placed in a trust fund. The Clerk has approval authority for this budget subject to the available dollars in the trust fund.
The Clerk has responsibility for the financial operations of both the Polk County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) and court activities. With different funding sources for the various responsibilities of the Clerk and Comptroller, portions of the Clerk's budget have different revenue sources, expenditure rules, and approval authorities. The Clerk's office is required by law to have a balanced budget each year.
Clerk of Courts Operations Corporation
Florida Statute dictates the maximum level of funding for the Clerk's office, and each year the Clerk of Courts Operations Corporation (CCOC) assists with developing and approving an annual budget that meets statutory guidelines.
Polk County Board of County Commissioners
A separate budget request is sent each year to the BoCC for funding of the Comptroller and Clerk to the Board functions of the Clerk's office.
Annual Budget Report
The annual budget report is a way the Clerk’s office maintains transparency. It provides details of the office’s spending to Polk County residents, so they can see how the office is funded and how that funding is spent.
The Polk County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller is a constitutional office and is required to have expenditures, revenues and operations audited. The Clerk is subject to multiple audits and those are listed and discussed below.
The County Commission contracts with an independent accounting firm to perform an audit of the functions and financial activities of the Polk County Board of County Commissioners and each of the five constitutional offices. Each of these entities is independently audited and subject to materiality based upon their own expenditure levels. The audits of the five constitutional officers along with the Board are then combined into a Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. This is submitted to the Board and widely distributed to provide residents, investors, and other interested parties an overview of the financial health and fiscal activities of the entire county government. Copies can be viewed in our office or online.
Department of Financial Services
Beginning in 2004, the Florida Department of Financial Services (DFS) was charged by statute with the responsibility for auditing each Clerk's court-related expenditures to ensure that the budgets are in compliance with state statutes and used solely for court-related activities. DFS periodically audits every Clerk and provides written reports.
In Florida, the Auditor General (AG) is a constitutional officer appointed by the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee. His appointment is confirmed by both houses of the Legislature. The AG conducts financial audits of the accounts and records of State agencies; and, as directed by the Legislative Auditing Committee, of local governments including Clerks of Court and the Clerk of Court Operations Corporation (CCOC). The AG adopts rules for financial audits performed by independent certified public accountants of local governmental entities, including Clerks, and reviews all audit reports of local governmental entities, pursuant to Section 218.39, Florida Statutes.
Child Support Audits
Child support services in Florida and other states are provided through Federal grants and controlled by the provisions of OMB Circular A-87. The Florida Department of Revenue administers the grant program, and contracts with independent certified public accountants to provide an annual audit of the expenditure of grant funds and the operations of the Clerks in regard to child support enforcement. In addition, periodic inspection and oversight are provided by the Office of Child Support Enforcement of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.