As defined in the North Dakota Century Code, the Auditor is the Chief Financial Officer, Elections Administrator, and Executive Secretary to the County Commission. The Auditor's Office is the hub of every courthouse. Auditors are elected to four-year terms. Emily Wigen was elected as Steele County’s Auditor in 2014 and remains in office today.
The County Auditor's Association 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 Auditor's Association also monitors legislative action. An annual summer meeting is held, along with occasional training sessions throughout the year. The Auditors are also active members of the Association of Counties and are represented on the Executive Committee. Emily Wigen currently sits as Vice-President of the North Dakota Auditor’s Association.
Chief Financial Officer
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 Auditor’s Office handles all aspects of county payroll checks, related reports, and benefits records. They are required to prepare year-end financial statements. However, most Auditors also prepare quarterly statements, and many provide their County Commissions with monthly statements.
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.
Executive Secretary for the County Commission
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.
Taxes and Budgeting
One of the most important jobs is riding herd on the budget process, which begins and ends in the Auditor’s Office. Sometime after the fiscal year begins on January 1, the Auditor starts preparing 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 by the Auditor's Office.
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 Auditor’s Office disburses tax money collected for these political subdivisions at the appropriate time.
All deeds, patents, and contracts for deeds brought to the Register of Deeds’ Office for recording must be transferred by the Auditor’s Office to certify that delinquent taxes are paid. Legislative changes now require all current and delinquent taxes to be paid before a deed can be recorded. The Auditor maintains record of county-owned property, obtained through tax proceedings. The Auditor also maintains records of legal land descriptions for taxation purposes.
Other duties of the Auditor's Office include:
• Serves the County as the Risk Manager, County Superintendent of Schools, and Human Resources.
• Assists in maintaining the website and social media platforms.
• Maintains an inventory of fixed assets.
• Reviews and updates insurance coverage for county property.
• Binds and stores copies of the official county newspaper as county record.
• Issues beer and liquor licenses.
• Issues bingo and raffle permits.