Published 9:57 am Tuesday, November 20, 2012
JACKSON – Not much has changed in the financial well being of Northampton County.
On Monday, Cindy Moseley with Martin Starnes and Associates presented the 2012 audit, in which the county received an unqualified opinion on its financial statements.
Moseley reported the county’s revenues were up by $259,952 from the previous year. In the general fund summary, revenues for the current year were shown at $27.72 million and expenditures at $26.46 million. Expenditures are down this year by approximately $260,000.
The county’s total fund balance also increased from $5,015,001 to $5,241,425.
Due to stabilization by state law, the county’s available fund balance is $2.52 million, which Moseley said is “slightly less” than the previous year which stood at $2.66 million.
Moseley said the county’s available fund balance percentage has dipped a little from 10.16 percent to 9.7 percent.
“The LGC (Local Government Commission) has a benchmark and a lot of people use that eight percent, but really that is a minimum that they like to see,” she said. “So I looked in your (county’s) peer group and the average in your peer group, which goes with your population under 25,000, it’s about 28 percent. We’re not the lowest, but we’re the second lowest here in our fund balance.”
Moseley noted the percentage for total fund balance did increase from 19.2 percent to 20.15 percent. Property taxes have also increased by approximately $541,000.
Sales tax increased slightly this year from $1,432,477 to $1,478,076.
“We’re still not up to where we were in 2010 ($1.68 million),” Moseley said.
She reported Human Services increased by one percent while Public Safety saw a decrease of 2 percent (expenditures included capital purchases) and Education decreased by about 10 percent. She added there was a slight decrease in General Government.
The water and sewer fund had unrestricted net assets at $826,751 and a positive cash flow of $935,468.
“However, our debt service at $900,429 is taking up the majority of our cash flow,” said Moseley. “So we’re pretty much breaking even in water and sewer.”
She said the county’s solid waste fund does still have a bit of a negative fund balance ($392,185), but not as much as last year. The fund had a positive cash flow of $14,440 and no debt service.
Both funds were running with positive operating income with water and sewer at $425,770 with a decrease of $14,750 in net assets and solid waste at $5,154 with a $4,609 increase in net assets.
Commission Chair Virginia Spruill questioned why there is a difference between the cash flow and the debt service in the water and sewer fund.
“Rates are set to sustain and maintain the water system and its liabilities,” said County Manager Wayne Jenkins. “At some point in time in the future your water system is going to be a revenue source for you just like your ad valorem tax rate, but until the debt is retired it’s only going to maintain itself, protect liabilities and the rest will be set to make it self-sufficient.”
He added the more water and sewer expansions occurring in the county the higher the debt.
“The caveat there is your rates should be set and the new customers that are anticipated should equal the debt and operating cost so that there should be no deficit because of the expansion,” he said.
Vice Commission Robert Carter questioned the fund balance percentage and the county should have approximately 28 percent.
“What the LGC looks at right there at 9.7 percent is your peer group and all of the counties there in that peer group, the average there of what they have available at 28 percent,” Moseley said. “You are not the lowest, but you are the second lowest as far at the 9.7.”
Jenkins questioned if the peer group (of approximately 30 counties) took in other statistics other than population.
Moseley agreed you would have to compare “apples to apples”.
“There are different things that it looks at,” she said.
Jenkins also noted on the stabilization by state statute (funds that could not to be spent) there was an increase this year by $373,000.
“If it had not been for the requirement of increase by general statue that would have reflected in your general fund balance and your percentage would have been much higher than 9.7 percent,” he said.