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Bertie finances improve

WINDSOR – The financial news for Bertie County was good.

Last week, Jeff Best of Pittard, Perry and Crone gave a report the audit findings for Bertie County financial statements to the county commissioners.

The news was positive with increases in tax collection and an addition to the county’s fund balance, despite no tax increases for the past nine years.

The county’s tax collection rate has risen to 96.09 percent, up from 95.98 percent a year ago.

“This is the tenth year in a row the tax collection rate has increased,” Bertie County Manager Zee Lamb said. “That is due to the continued good work of the tax office and Mr. (Hosea) Wilson.”

The tax collection rate was 88.59 percent at the end of the 1999-2000 fiscal year, a low for the county. It steadily increased, going to 90.67 percent a year later then to 92.35 and continued the steady rise.

Last year’s rate closed in on the highest rate recorded since 1981 (96.47 percent).

While the tax collection rate has risen, the amount owed to the county has steadily decreased. Tax payers owed $1.331 million in uncollected taxes at the end of the 2000-2001 fiscal year.

That amount has dropped progressively; the current amount is $663,107 owed by citizens.

Another area that dropped was the general fund expenditures. That amount decreased from nearly $18.9 million during the 2008-09 year to just over $17.65 million last year.

“Because of the national economy, the commissioners have attempted to limit spending,” Lamb reported.

He said the drop in the budget was also partially due to the Medicaid costs being completely eliminated from the county budget.

The unreserved fund balance has reached its highest point yet, increasing slightly from 2008-09 to $5.985 million. That’s up from $5.265 million the previous year.

While the increase was slight, that raised fund balance and the smaller budget allowed the fund balance percentage to grow vastly from 27.87 percent last year all the way to 33.9 percent at the end of 2009-10.

“How does our fund balance measure up to those counties around us,” Commissioner Norman Cherry asked Best.

“I’m not sure, but you do have a healthy fund balance,” he said.

Lamb said if the fund balance was growing because of tax increases, it could be argued that they weren’t necessary, but that no tax increase in the last nine years meant that was not the reason the fund balance grew.

Pittard, Perry and Crone gave the county an unqualified opinion, meaning there were no causes for concern with the audit.

There were no material weaknesses identified in the report and only one area that was deemed a “significant deficiency.”

That matter was reconciling the water revenues and receivables per monthly billings and the collections to the General Ledger.

The county reviewed the information and agreed with the finding and has already begun the implementation process.

There were no significant deficiencies or material weaknesses identified for state or federal awards to the county.