More Money

Published 8:51am Tuesday, September 10, 2013

JACKSON – There are a number of reasons why Northampton County local government is showing a $2 million surplus on its financial spreadsheet.

While one can see an increase in state sales tax and a hike in the federal reimbursement to the local DSS funding, it needs to be noted that much of the excess funds are due to good financial stewardship by county leaders of the citizen’s tax dollars.

At their meeting here last week, the Northampton County Board of Commissioners were advised that revenues budgeted for FY 2012-13 exceeded revenue by slightly over $2 million. That fiscal year closed out as of June 30.

“This information changes daily; when I got it typed up for the second time we had a change of $68,000 to the DSS (Department of Social Services) fund. By the time we add that to the bottom line, our revenues over expenditures will exceed $2 million,” said Northampton Finance Officer Dot Vick.

Vick said for the first time in several years, Fund 80 (DSS) wound up with more revenue than budgeted for expenditures (+ $115,279.84).

“They (DSS) are managing their money well,” Vick said. “They have money left over.”

She said there is even more revenue pending that needs to be added to the last fiscal year. That is due to the federal government not releasing funds until October, the start of their new fiscal year.

One of the reasons behind the surplus funds is an increase in the county’s share of the state sales tax. Vick said sales tax revenue exceeded what was initially budgeted by $705,207.

“That helped us,” Vick stressed. “We also did not use any fund balance in 2013; that helped as well, as did the fact that we only used $29,100 of the $100,000 set aside in the contingency fund.”

Another plus was the Misdemeanor Confinement Program within the Sheriff’s Office. Vick said the state started out by only sending funds due the county for housing prisoners once they were released.

“The state has changed that, they now send us a monthly payment,” she said. “I was budgeting that line item conservatively because of the way the state was paying us back. Because of that and because of the way the state changed the payment method, we wound up with $185,606 of revenue in that fund and we only budgeted $93,000. That helped us.”

In the Enterprise Fund, Vick noted that the Water Department has revenue over expenditures in the amount of $127,521.32. That’s not the case in the Solid Waste fund where expenditures exceeded revenue by $138,617.56.

“That (Solid Waste) number will change,” Vick noted. “There are additional pre-paid solid waste fees that have not yet been credited to this report.”

Another bit of good news shared by Vick concerned the money owed to the county from two ongoing projects – Enviva and the Severn Natural Gas Line. Northampton leaders opted to shell out $1.55 million from the county’s General Fund to jumpstart the projects, with the promise it would be returned. Vick said, to date, the North Carolina Department of Commerce paid $848,724 towards the Enviva project in August.

“I feel we’ll receive the remainder before the close of the calendar year,” Vick said. “It will be applied to our total fund balance.”

There was also a plus in the ambulance fees collected by the county. That line item was budgeted at $955,009 and came in at $969,064 as of June 30 for an extra $14,055.

“There was a lot of hard work that went into that effort,” Vick said, adding that the ambulance revenue collected represented 32.2 percent of the expenditures incurred by that department. “We finally have that fund flowing monthly like it should.”

Commissioner Joe Barrett asked Vick if it was reasonable to expect that percentage to rise.

“We are trying; we are using debt set-off as one method to collect payments due for ambulance services,” Vick said. “We are receiving some payments that way every month, but we still have some old bills that need to be sent to debt set-off.”

Vick said she would like to see the ambulance service collection rate at 40 percent.

“It’s been higher than that, but you need to remember that Medicare and Medicaid have changed (reimbursement) over the years,” she noted. “Plus we have more expenditures now due to increasing the number of ambulances we use.”

Vick added that now the interim financing is in place for construction of the new Department of Social Services office, the county does not have to tie-up county tax dollars to pay those weekly invoices.

“That helps with our cash flow,” Vick said. “We’re definitely better off than we were last year at this time.”

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