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Ahoskie receives ‘clean’ audit report

AHOSKIE – Thanks to a national economy that is slow to recover from a two-year downturn, many local government entities, both at the county and municipal level, are hearing not so pleasant news when it comes to their annual financial audits.

The Town of Ahoskie is not counted among that group.

In their most recent meeting, members of the Ahoskie Town Council listened as Chris Burton of Pittard, Perry & Crone, Inc. presented the town’s 2009-10 audit report.

The biggest news came first as Burton gave Ahoskie the highest marks an auditor can present.

“It’s a clean opinion; no problems whatsoever,” Burton reported.

He said the town’s assets exceeded its liabilities at the close of the fiscal year (June 30, 2010) by $18.9 million. That marked an increase of $1.67 million over the previous budget year.

Always a concern at any level of government is its fund balance…basically a savings account capable of filling any emergency needs. While many local government entities are raiding their fund balances due to the economic downturn, Burton said Ahoskie officials have done a good job in maintaining a healthy fund balance, one that now stands at $2.8 million. That amount equals 36 percent of the town’s general fund expenditures.

“That’s not as good as it’s been in previous years, but it’s way above what the Local Government Commission wants you to have,” Burton said.

Ahoskie’s debt increased by $556,000 in governmental funds and $1.2 million in business-type activities. The town’s legal debt margin is $3,445,000.

Even in a tough economy, Burton said Ahoskie’s revenues were outgaining expenditures, by $1.7 million in business-type activities.

“That cushion helps to pay your debt with these new projects you have going on,” Burton said, noting the town’s wastewater treatment plant project expected to open early next year.

Ahoskie’s tax collection rate was 93.71 percent for the 2009-10 fiscal year.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time and it still amazes me of your collection percentage, it’s phenomenal,” Burton said. “You would think that it would be lower in a rural area, but you all are doing a great job in collecting the large majority of what is owned to the town.”

Burton did advise the town to watch its debt margin.

“I know you all tackled some much-needed projects and the cost of doing that type of business couldn’t have come at a better time with construction rates as low as they are, but keep a close eye on your debt,” Burton concluded. “The internal control system you have in place here is very strong; if there was something out of line, that system would catch it.”

Council members voted unanimously to approve the audit report.

As one of her final actions as an Ahoskie employee, the news of a clean audit was extremely pleasing to Evelyn Howard. With 32 years under her belt, Howard is retiring Jan. 31, 2011 as Ahoskie’s Assistant Town Manager, Finance Officer and Town Clerk.

“I’m glad I can retire with a good, clean audit report; go out with things going so well,” Howard said in a later interview.

Howard said she has enjoyed working with the town and its employees.

“I received a chance to meet a lot of good, hard working people and form great relationships with them during my years here,” she noted. “It’s gratifying to be a public servant. I always strived to go that extra mile, to do things the right way.”

Howard closed by saying, “I always had a good repoire with the present and past councils, mayors and managers; it made my job a lot easier. I’m sure the town will continue to do well and I wish them the very best.”

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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