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Bertie Board updated on finances

WINDSOR – The Bertie County Commissioners will stay informed.

Monday night County Manager Zee Lamb gave all five members of the county commission a copy of the closing out of the 2007-08 budget and the current fiscal year budget.

“I’ve talked to the auditor (Jeff Best of Pittard, Perry and Crone) and we believe in light of the situation in Chowan County, it is a good idea for you to receive copies of the budget on a regular basis,” Lamb said.

Officials in Chowan County have been dealing with the near depletion of their county’s fund balance. Commissioners in that county said they were unaware of the fact the fund balance, which once contained more than $25 million, was all but gone.

Lamb has twice taken steps to make sure Bertie County Commissioners had information showing the financial status of their county since the incident in neighboring Chowan.

At the commissioners first meeting in August, Lamb presented a financial update showing tax collection rates, delinquent tax percentages ande xisting

fund balance.

Reached by telephone Wednesday, Lamb said both efforts were to keep the county’s leaders and citizens informed.

“The commissioners see the budget a lot during April, May and June, but unless I give it to them, they generally would not see it otherwise,” Lamb said. “In talking to the auditor, he agreed they need to see at least a summary on a regular basis.

“I had planned on giving them a copy on Monday anyway, but after consulting with the auditor, he felt it was a good idea for the update to be a regular one,” Lamb said.

Commissioners expressed appreciation for the information, but asked Lamb to look for a way to spend less money and time than the 60-plus page report they were given.

Lamb said Wednesday he would be able to provide board members with a 20-page abbreviated report that wouldn’t give every line item, but would keep them informed on the financial status of the county.

“We have not had a crisis here in the past eight years, but I still want our board to be aware of our budgetary situation,” Lamb said. “We want to make sure they have that information at their fingertips in case the public inquires. We want to put more sunlight on everything.”

The manager said he had provided the budgetary update on an irregular basis in the past, but felt it was necessary to keep the board informed on a more regular interval now.

“We’re very pleased,” Commission Chairman Norman Cherry said of the new policy. “What it does for us as board members is to let us know on a regular basis that the manager and the commissioners are being good stewards of public funds.

“I appreciate the efforts of Mr. Lamb and the county finance staff in making sure we have this information,” he closed.

Lamb also said he wanted the public to be aware of the budget situation.

“All of our budgetary information is public record,” he said. “Anyone can come by and get a copy of the budget or discuss it with me. I will answer any questions. This is 100 percent public record.”