Mid-year audit bears mixed news

Published 9:38 am Tuesday, March 13, 2012

JACKSON — Auditors are projecting Northampton County to experience a hit to its fund balance at the end of the fiscal year.

Last week, the Northampton County Board of Commissioners received a mid-year analysis of the county’s finances from auditor J.P. Jones with Martin Starnes & Associates.

Jones said he analyzed the county’s figures from Dec. 31 and projected to see what will happen in the next half of the year.

Jones began with last year’s “report card” in which the county’s fund balance came in $360,000 over (at $4.81 million) what was projected by the firm.

“We projected you to go flat, and you actually added to fund balance last year in your general fund,” he said. “The difference here was mainly the ad valorem taxes coming in above budget.”

As of Dec. 31, the county had $17.23 million in revenues and $12.79 million in expenses. Jones said for the second half of the year, Northampton was expected to have an additional $9.76 million in revenue and $15.5 million in expenditures.

“The big difference in revenue is that you have taxes come in usually before Dec. 31st,” Jones said. “Your expenditures, part of the difference here is your debt service. A lot of your debt service payments happen after the end of last year, after December.”

Jones said he projected the county to use $1.3 million in fund balance and in the budget $1.07 million is appropriated from fund balance.

As of June 30, 2011, the county’s total fund balance stood at $4.8 million and unassigned fund balance at $1.92 million.

With that $1.3 million the county will use, the projected fund balance for the county at the end of the fiscal year will stand at $3.51 million. Jones said the county’s unassigned fund balance will not change much.

For the percentage of expenditures, Jones projected 12.42 percent for the total fund balance and 6.80 percent for unassigned.

Jones said the Northampton County Department of Social Services revenue was slightly down as of Dec. 31 compared to the previous year, from $1.79 million to $1.57 million.

“Note that you also budget tax dollars to fund some of your DSS, for your contribution you make to DSS,” he said.

Jones said the Health Department’s revenues and expenditures were slightly less than the previous year from $1.8 million to $1.87 million on the expenditure side and $1.41 million to $1.46 million on revenues.

Jones said the ambulance analysis reflected capital outlay purchases (ambulances and cardiac monitoring equipment) from last year. As of Dec. 31, 2010, expenditures stood at $1.12 million and revenues at $222,000. This past December, the figures stood at $974,000 in expenditures and $180,000 in revenues.

“The biggest thing you’re going to have this year is you’ve got a new crew that you’re funding up at the lake,” Jones said.

Jones said the revenues for inmate housing “is dwindling considerably” and meanwhile the cost is slowly increasing.

Information provided by Jones showed the county received $14,360 last year in revenues for inmate housing compared to $34,030 in 2010 and $419,975 in 2007.

Expenditures for inmate housing in 2007 stood at $1.06 million, $1.2 million in 2010 and $1.29 million in 2011. For this year expenditures already stand at $587,437.

Jones said over the past five years the expenditures have exceeded revenues by $4.79 million.

“You need to look at your jail to see if there is any way you can minimize the gap between what you’re getting in revenues and what you’re (spending),” he said.

Jones said this year the county has spent roughly 26 percent of the $115,000 budgeted in capital outlay. He added typically freezing capital outlay is a way to generate immediate savings.

Jones said at this point with 26 percent spent, if the county froze capital outlay it would not generate a lot of savings.

“So you have to look at other things to cut costs,” he said.

At the end of 2011, the county’s water and sewer fund stood at $1.42 million in revenues and $814,000 in expenses.

Jones said it was projected to add another $1.41 million in revenues and $1.71 million in expenses. With the projections, the fund would finish out $300,000 to the good.

Jones noted the fund’s debt service typically comes at the end of the year.

The solid waste fund stood at $1.81 million in revenues and $1.09 million in expenses. Jones projected $563,000 to be added in revenues and $1.20 million in expenses. With the projections, the fund would finish out the year $75,000 to the good.