Audit reveals good news

Published 10:32 am Wednesday, November 28, 2012

GATESVILLE – Despite the state and nation still slow to recover from a great recession, Gates County’s financial books are in good shape.

That is the word from Martin Starnes & Associates, a CPA firm that serves as the county’s auditor. At last week’s meeting of the Gates County Board of Commissioners, Martin Starnes accountant Brian Epley gave the local government entity high marks for their work to keep the county’s finances under control.

“The county receives an unqualified opinion on its financial statements, which is the best opinion that can be given in an independent audit,” Epley said. “The staff here was very cooperative as we performed the audit, they we very pleasant to work with.”

One of the highlights of the audit was the county’s ability to increase its General Fund balance. Those numbers showed an increase of $174,079 at the end of the 2011-12 fiscal year (as of June 30, 2012). At that time the fund balance stood at $3,579,394. Of that amount, the available (undesignated) fund balance was $2,938,979 – an increase of $267,830 from the prior year.

Compared to the general ledger, the fund balance is 28 percent of the total year’s expenditures in the general fund. That percentage met the requirements of the state’s Local Government Commission (LGC).

Commission chairman Graham Twine asked Epley if Gates County’s 28 percent worth of fund balance was in line with neighboring counties.

“It’s been noted by some that we’re running too much fund balance,” Twine said. “I feel we’re in a good place with our fund balance.”

Epley said the LGC bases its required percentages of fund balance on the geographic location, population and financial risks, to include those from natural disasters, of each county.

“Gates County is inside the range of its peer group for the amount of fund balance,” Epley said. “You’re not right on the coast, but close enough to the coast where the LGC assumes you could be impacted by storms. If those storms do happen then you need a certain amount of fund balance readily available that is spendable in those situations.”

Epley pointed out that in the revenue stream, the county was able to slightly increase two line items – property taxes were up by roughly $65,000 (to $6,020,634) and the county’s share of the state sales tax netted an additional $160,000 (to $1,871,721).

As expected, education ($2.69 million), human services ($2.23 million) and public safety ($1.86 million) led the way on the expenditures side of the audited budget.

In net assets, they exceeded liabilities by $6.9 million ($18,155,141 in assets compared to $11,254,622 in liabilities).

“From a financial technical expertise standpoint, you are in very good financial health,” Epley said.

The commissioners offered praise for the county’s financial staff and department heads in safeguarding the county’s coffers.

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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