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Audit reveals good news

WINTON – With a cloudy financial future, Hertford County local government took bold steps during the 2008-09 budget year to trim costs.

That effort yielded accolades from the firm that annually audits the county’s finances.

On Monday, Jim Winston of Winston, Williams, Creech, Evans & Company presented to the Hertford County Commissioners the complete audit covering the 08-09 fiscal year. That audit produced an “unqualified opinion” – the highest accolade a public body can receive.

“You had a good year, especially in a year where everyone was experiencing a tight economy,” Winston said. “Your numbers were better than the ones you budgeted. Your internal control was excellent.”

While the county’s net assets fell slightly ($39,701), the total assets improved by nearly $400,000 (standing at $29.35 million as of June 30, 2009).

Winston also reported an increase in the county’s Fund Balance ($9,986,997 up from $9,189,384). The unreserved Fund Balance stands at 30.41 percent of the county’s expenditures.

“That’s a good number; the statewide average is 23.62 percent,” Winston noted.

Cash on hand also increased – the audit listed $9,777,026 as of June 30, 2009 compared to $8,869,314 at the same time last year.

The key in having a good financial year is not spending more than collected. That was the case for Hertford County as they listed nearly $22 million in General Fund revenues ($21,996,812) while expenditures came in at $20,598,704.

Another key element is the tax collection rate. Hertford County (96.35 percent) was better than the state average and higher than last year’s 95.76 percentage rate.

The auditor’s report as well as the “unqualified opinion” earned by the county was news well received by the commissioners.

“We couldn’t have done this without our county employees, from top to bottom, toeing the line,” Commissioners Curtis Freeman said.

“I’ll say what I always say in these cases: if it’s good, then we did it; if it’s bad, then Ms. (Loria) Williams (the Hertford County Manager) did it,” smiled veteran Commissioner DuPont Davis. “This was a good report, so we did it.”

“When we learned last year of the impending economic crisis, this board instituted a spending and hiring freeze,” Williams recalled. “We became very proactive in our cost-saving measures and we were able to do this without mandating furloughs for our county employees.”

Williams offered her congratulations to all department heads and county employees for “tightening their belts in these bad economic times.” She particularly thanked Hertford County Tax Collector Wilda Liverman and her staff for an outstanding job.

“Everyone rose to the challenge and that allowed us to get to where we’re at today,” Williams closed.