Northampton fund balance increases

Published 11:27 am Tuesday, November 8, 2011

JACKSON—NorthamptonCountyhas experienced growth in its fund balance.

On Monday, Bryan Starnes of Martin Starnes & Associates gave an audit report to the Northampton County Board of Commissioners.

“The good news is that you’re going to actually add to your fund balance this year,” Starnes said during his report. “You’ll be one of very few across the state that have a fund balance. That’s certainly something to be congratulated for. It’s difficult times with unpredictable needs.”

Starnes said the biggest change the county was going to see was in its expenditures due to capital purchases.

According to information provided by Starnes, the county’s general fund revenues stood at $27.46 million and expenditures at $26.27 million, a more than $900,000 increase over the previous year.

“About $600,000 of that was related to capital purchases for equipment,” he said.

Starnes said the county’s total fund balance increased by $385,376 from $4.62 million to just over $5 million. He added after stabilization by state statute, the county’s available fund balance is $2.66 million.

While the county’s fund balance has grown, the available fund balance as a percent of expenditures has stayed the same going from 10.01 percent last year to 10.16 percent.

“The reason (for no change in percentage) is your capital expenditures we just talked about are part of your expenditures and they’re funded by debt issuance,” he said. “So your denominator, total expenditures, is actually artificially higher than it is in a normal year.”

Starnes said total fund balance as a percentage of expenditures grew from 18.27 percent to 19.09 percent.

“This is with your restrictions and without,” he said.

He added withNorthampton’s population size the fund balance average is 22 percent. However, Starnes warned the commissioners about averages suggesting to “right size” when they compare themselves to similar populated counties.

“So you’re getting close, you’re well adjusted to the population size of 22 (percent),” he said.

Property tax revenue increased by approximately $1.66 million, a gain Starnes said was generated from a tax increase in the past budget year.

County sales tax collection continued on its dip downward due to the economy. Starnes reported a drop from $1.68 million to $1.43 million. Since 2009, the county has seen a $1.10 million decrease in sales tax revenue.

“We are seeing, at a state level, sales tax recover, so hopefully you’ll start seeing that recover,” he said. “A large part of this is your distributed portion of the state’s collection.”

Starnes said the water and sewer fund had a good year with $773,067 in net assets, $1.11 million in cash flow from operations and $897,419 in debt service for 2011-12.

“That’s a somewhat high, but not unusually high, debt load because water and sewer funds are very debt intensive and capital intensive,” he said.

The solid waste fund continues to get better despite some loss. Starnes said the fund lost $139,535 from cash flow operations, a significantly lower figure than in the past. The fund also has $400,825 in negative assets.

Starnes said the recent rate adjustment should help that fund by next year.

“So it will be back where it needs to be,” he said.

Starnes concluded his report by making the commissioners aware of some information for the future.

He said state tax revenues are not enough to fully replace federal stimulus funds that expired in June. Federal healthcare reform will also make it harder to for states to control costs. He also stated federal spending cuts will affect state and local governments to varying degrees.

“Pay attention to what is going on at the federal level because eventually you may have to respond,” he said.