Audit shows Bertie in great shape

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 29, 2006

WINDSOR – A new middle school; plans in the works for improved DSS services and a beautiful recreation complex n Bertie County experienced a busy year during 2006.

Despite all those expenditures, the county’s financial condition remains strong. That was the opinion of an independent auditor who recently assessed Bertie’s financial health through the annual audit process.

In an overview of the numbers from the 2005-06 fiscal year, Jeff Best of Pittard Perry & Crone, Inc. pointed to the number one factor in determining financial health n assets that exceed liabilities.

The audit revealed that Bertie County government closed the 2005-06 year (which ended June 30, 2006) with net assets of just under $29 million ($28,992,958). To the credit of Bertie officials, this good news comes at a time when the county is in the midst of making huge investments in education (a new middle school is under construction), recreation (a new complex just recently opened) and social services (plans are final and a loan secured build a new DSS office).

“We’re able to move Bertie County forward and offer our citizens top quality services due to the fact that we are fortunate to have a board of commissioners who are good stewards of funds we use to operate the services we offer, including the taxpayer’s money,” County Manager Zee Lam said.

Lamb continued, “Every year, it is expected of me to devise a budget that will fulfill the needs of our citizens. Every year, it is the commissioners’ duty to ensure that money is spent wisely. I thank the commissioners for the job they do and I thank our department heads and staff members for making their departments work within budget and work to see Bertie County grow and prosper.”

The county did indeed grow and prosper during the 2005-06 budget year.

As of the close of that budget year, Bertie County’s governmental funds reported an ending fund balance of $14.25 million, an increase of just over $5.5 million from the previous year. Of that $14.25 million, $12.2 million is available to spend at the county government’s discretion (unreserved fund balance).

At the end of the 05-06 fiscal year, the unreserved fund balance for the General Fund stood at $4.26 million.

Meanwhile, the commissioners learned from the audit that the county’s tax collection rate increased for the sixth consecutive year. That rate now stands at 95.11 percent, an increase over the 94.92 percentage rate from 2004-05. It also marks the highest collection rate since a 95.8 percent effort during the 1984-85 fiscal year.

“The tax collection rate is very critical because that is the figure we use to establish next year’s budget,” Lamb noted. “The higher the collection rate, the more money the county is able to generate and that increase allows us to fund our countywide services at a higher rate. In the end, it’s the citizens who benefit by paying their taxes.”

It did not come as a surprise when the audit revealed that Bertie County’s total debt increased by 18 percent over the previous year. The key factor in that near $5 million ($4,968,590) increase was the loan approved by the commissioners to build the new middle school.

At the end of his presentation, Best informed the commissioners of two areas of financial concern that needed to be addressed. He said all journal entries should be approved by someone independent of preparing and recording those journal entries. Additionally, Best suggested the water bills should be reviewed for keying errors by someone independent of preparing the bills.

Lamb informed the commissioners that both findings had been addressed and corrected.