Commissioners pleased with audit

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 21, 2006

WINTON – The financial news is good in Hertford County.

Jim Winston spent 15 minutes Monday night outlining the improvements made in Hertford County’s financial condition in the last fiscal year, pointing to County Finance Officer Robin Stephenson and her staff as well as the governing board as making sound decisions to aid that cause. Winston was speaking on behalf of Winston, Williams, Creech, Evans and Co., the county’s auditing firm.

Winston started his presentations with words the Hertford County Commissioners were pleased to hear.

“I’m here to report very good numbers,” he said.

Winston then told the board Hertford County received an unqualified opinion for their financial statements ending June 30, 2006, the best possible opinion offered under state guidelines.

The good news began with the first pages of Winston’s presentation as Hertford County officials found out they had paid down debt, lessening liabilities. In the same time frame, the county has also increased net assets by nearly $1.4 million.

The only disturbing news in the financial statements came in the revenue area where the incoming funds dropped approximately $300,000 from $25 million in 2005 to $24.7 million in 2006.

Winston said he was concerned about the drop, but couldn’t explain it. County Manager Loria D. Williams was also at a loss to figure out why revenue decreased.

Commissioner Chairman Curtis A. Freeman (D-2nd) instructed Williams to investigate and return to the board with information about the drop off.

While that news wasn’t what the board wanted to hear, it was eased by the fact there was also a near $200,000 drop off in expenditures for the fiscal year.

The fund balance for all governmental funds in the county increased dramatically during the fiscal year, going from $7.2 million in 2005 to $8.2 million in 2006.

The unreserved portion of that fund balance is nearly $4.8 million which is 23.4 percent of the county’s operating budget. Winston said the percentage, which was up from near 18 percent last year, was “pretty much at the state average.”

He said he would like to see the board continue to increase the unreserved fund balance so they could work on capital projects in the future without the number dropping to a dangerous level.

The county’s cash on hand also increased nearly $1 million, going up to $7.9 million from just under $7 million a year ago.

“Overall the county had a good year,” Winston said. “The board and manager did a lot better than you were budgeted to do. That’s always a good thing.”

Freeman said he was appreciative of the work done by Williams, Stephenson and the finance office staff.

“This report has shown the fruits of their labor,” Freeman said.

Williams added her thanks to the county finance staff, saying the audit process had been much different this year and she appreciated their hard work.