‘As good as it gets’

Published 8:44 am Tuesday, December 4, 2012

WINTON – The news is good on all fronts.

Hertford County’s Commissioners were all smiles here Monday morning where they received the 2011-12 audit report.

Jim Winston, the lead partner in the CPA firm of Winston, Williams, Creech, Evans and Company, gave the report, one where the county earned an “unqualified opinion” on their financial record keeping.

“That opinion is as good as it gets,” said Winston. “We found everything in order.”

The county’s finances, ending June 30, showed increases in several areas, including net assets at $15.93 million (up from $15.37 million at the close of the 2010-11 fiscal year).

Revenues were up by nearly two million dollars – $25.88 million as of June 30 of this year compared to $23.96 million last year. Even though expenditures rose by nearly one million dollars, the county still came out to the good with $555,074 more in net assets.

“Some of that expenditure increase came through Social Services; that money comes in and goes right back out,” Winston noted.

The lion’s share of the revenues came from ad valorem taxes ($12 million), restricted intergovernmental funds ($5.68 million), sales tax ($3.96 million), sales and services ($1.23 million).

“The sales tax numbers went south starting in 2008; now they seem to be bouncing back which is perhaps a sign that the economy is recovering,” Winston said. “You gained $428,000 more in sales tax than a year ago.”

Expenditures were basically dominated by Human Services (nearly $7 million), Public Safety (a shade over $6 million), Education ($5.98 million) and General Government ($2.9 million).

Total fund balance (all funds) rose from $8.34 million to $8.60 million. Percentage wise, Hertford County’s Fund Balance is 24.05% of its expenditures. The state average is 27.99%.

“You have a good number there, I don’t like to see counties go below 20 percent,” Winston said.

Cash accounts for the county stood at $9.9 million at the close of the 2011-12 fiscal year, up from $9.1 million a year ago.

As far as the general fund revenues compared to the expenditures, the county came out $1,058,000 to the good.

Another positive sign was that of the $2.1 million earmarked for appropriation to balance the 2011-12 books, only $102,922 was actually used.

“That’s a great number…you said you were going to spend over two million dollars from the fund balance and you wound up spending roughly $103,000….you are over $1.9 million to the good right there,” Winston stressed.

The audit also showed an increase of $693,000 on the adjusted tax levy.

Winston praised the county’s tax collection effort, noting it increased to 95.26 percent from 94.9 percent last year. Both marks are above the state average of 94.54%.

The proprietary funds increased in the Northern ($166,324) and Southern ($548,805) Water Districts, but fell slightly ($53,633) in the Sanitation Department.

“You had a good year overall,” Winston remarked. “Net assets, fund balance, the tax base, and cash accounts all grew. You’ve done a great job in managing your budget. You were very conservative and that’s the smart way to go in this day and time.”

County Manager Loria Williams said the loss of Sanitation funds can be attributed to the move towards privatizing that department – losing some tipping fees and recycling funds.

“We’ve made some adjustments there that will hopefully correct that and get us back where we should be,” she said.

“I commend our staff for a job well done in holding the line on our budget,” said Commission Chairman Curtis Freeman. “We made some good decisions and I’m thoroughly pleased with this audit report.”

“Based on the numbers I just gave you, your staff and this board are apparently doing something right and I commend all of you on a job well done,” Winston concluded.

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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