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Ahoskie audit reveals net gains

AHOSKIE – Despite these troubling economic times, the Town of Ahoskie has performed an admirable job of managing its money.

That was the opinion of Chris Burton, an auditor with Pittard, Perry and Crone, Inc., during his annual financial report to the Ahoskie Town Council on Tuesday.

In short, Burton said he found no material flaws within the town’s most recent year-ending budget (2007-08). He gave the town an “unqualified opinion” – meaning Ahoskie’s financial house was in order.

However, Burton was quick to point out that the town needs to keep an even closer eye on the bottom line as he referenced today’s tough economic times across the nation.

“You have a strong fund balance, but please watch it very carefully in these bad economic times,” Burton stressed. “I watched the president’s address last night (referencing Monday) and even he didn’t know when we will emerge from this financial crisis.”

Burton added that the only way he could see the financial picture growing any worse was, “if people stop paying their property taxes and water and sewer bills.”

While the financial forecast for the future remains cloudy, the present-day picture was bright and sunny.

In a brief overview, Burton said Ahoskie’s assets exceeded its liabilities by nearly $17 million ($16,961,829) at the close of the 2007-08 fiscal year. While that figure is $1.17 million higher than the previous budget year, it was noted in Burton’s report that slightly more than 65 percent of those assets ($11.1 million) reflects the town’s investments in land, buildings, machinery and equipment.

Meanwhile, Ahoskie’s combined fund balances stood at just under $3.65 million as of June 30, 2008. That marked an increase of $294,436 from 2006-07. Of that total amount, $3.24 million is available in unreserved fund balance (can be spent at the town government’s discretion).

On the other side of the coin, Ahoskie’s debt balance increased by nearly $1.7 million. Burton noted the lion’s share of this increase was linked to a huge project involving water/sewer system rehabilitation and the purchase of new water meters. Another debt increase came as the result of installment purchases of various equipment and vehicles.

Burton praised Ahoskie’s property tax collection rate (94.4 percent), saying “this is the second or third best collection rate of all the municipal and county audits I do.”

He also praised Assistant Town Manager/Finance Officer Evelyn Howard and her staff for an outstanding job on keeping close tabs on Ahoskie’s financial health.

“I agree,” Councilman O.S. “Buck” Suiter said. “I would like to publicly thank Evelyn and her staff for a job well done.”

Ahoskie Town Manager Tony Hammond also passed praise to Howard, but added that the town’s department heads also deserved some of the credit.

“When I come to you every year, I come with a bare-bones budget,” Hammond said. “I’m able to do that because each of our department heads doe a great job in managing their budgets.”

At the conclusion of Burton’s report, council members approved the audit without objection.