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Audit finds state opticians' board in the red

Posted December 30, 2014

— A new state audit says the North Carolina State Board of Opticians will run out of money in 2015, forcing it to close its doors, unless lawmakers allow it to raise its licensing fees or combine it with another oversight board.

The opticians board oversees providers who dispense and fit glasses, contact lenses and other vision aids prescribed by optometrists or other doctors. Its role within state law is to administer the state licensing exam for opticians, follow up on consumer complaints against opticians and take disciplinary action as needed. It also oversees internship and training programs.

The audit found that the board has been operating since 2009 at an average annual net loss of $55,540. Despite efforts to cut costs, it has run through its cash reserves and will not have sufficient funds to operate throughout 2015. 

The fees that support the board's operations are set by law, and lawmakers have not increased them since 2004, despite the board's efforts. They include $200 for the state licensing exam, $50 for a first license, $100 to renew a license and $50 to register an optical business with the state. 

In 2013, the board took in about $160,000, but its expenses were about $252,000. Even at that level, its office is open only 24 hours a week.  

In the audit released Tuesday, State Auditor Beth Wood says lawmakers could also consider combining the board with another regulatory entity to save money on overhead costs such as support staff and rent. Wood says such an arrangement would at least make someone available for the public to contact during regular business hours.

In her response, Executive Director Sue Hodgin said the opticians board agrees with the recommendation that lawmakers raise the fees that support its operations. But she disagrees with the option of combining operations with another regulatory body, noting that the services the board is required by law to provide will still cost more than current fees can cover, regardless of who's overseeing them.

Hodgin also said the board "has been very frugal" over its 63 years in operation and pledged to try again to persuade lawmakers to allow a fee increase in 2015.

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  • Jeff DeWitt Jan 5, 2015
    user avatar

    These aren't eye doctors we are talking about... pull the plug on this board and most of the other state licencing boards. This state way WAY over regulates small businesses, and the biggest reason is that the people already in business want to limit competition.

  • dennis8 Jan 2, 2015

    I'm sure the GA will eliminate this board. Doesn't regulate abortion so they will deem it unnecessary.

  • SaveEnergyMan Jan 2, 2015

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    Actually, many state agencies have become VERY good at managing tax money because budgets have been cut repeatedly most years since 2008 - while increasing duties and the number of people served. This creates an environment where overspending can't be tolerated because budgets have to be met. Most state employees are not overpaid, just the administrators and well heeled advisors you keep hearing about.

  • wayneboyd Jan 2, 2015

    Something is missing here.
    If I read the article correctly the office is only open 24 hours per week. How many employees does it have and how much salary is each collecting. I can't see how anyone can live working so few hours.

  • unc70 Jan 2, 2015

    View quoted thread


    Did you read the article or the report? The board is required by law to provide certain services funded by fees, but has its fee structure set by law also. Fees have not increased since 2004. The total spending has been just over $200k per year. That is not much; the auditor found no fault with the spending.

  • lessismore Dec 31, 2014

    How incompetent for an agency to know how much income they will have for the entire year and not be able to budget it. Looks like a lot of travel and administrative expenses being used unwisely. Do they have more employees than needed...probably. Are they paid more than needed..probably. What about food, rentals cars, and reimbursements for items not needed? Seems anyone that receives their pay from private sector income always run short, they are not good at managing other people's money.

  • Terry Watts Dec 30, 2014
    user avatar

    Good job GOP!