Draft audit gives Hertford County high marks

Published 8:32 am Thursday, December 5, 2013

WINTON – As good as it gets.

That’s the prognosis for the Hertford County Audit Report ending June 30, 2013 according to Jim Winston, partner in the auditing firm of Winston, Williams, Creech, Evans & Co. of Oxford who presented a draft report on an audit of the county’s budget for the fiscal year 12-13.

At the Dec. 2 regular meeting of the Hertford County Board of Commissioners here Monday, Winston expressed that 2013 was a good, positive year for the county’s finances.

Hertford County once again earned an unqualified opinion on its financial statements, and that gave the commissioners as well as County Manager Loria Williams, and other staff in county government plenty of reason to smile before Christmas.

Hertford County’s revenues increased from $25,888,638 to $26,343,262 from 2012 to 2013 as well as the county’s Total Fund Balance from $8,604,146 to $20,656,574. That translates further to a Fund Balance average of 33.10% of the county’s expenditures.

“That’s a really good number,” Winston said.

That percentage of the county’s operating budget gives Hertford County the equivalent of a four-month reserve in the county’s coffers.

The North Carolina Local Government Commission, thru the state Treasurer’s office, which is a sort of watchdog over local government finances, requires 8 percent for larger municipalities and for small counties and towns a number over 20 percent, or about a two-to-three month reserve.

The state average for Fiscal Year 2013 is 25.24%.

The county’s tax collection rate decreased from 95.26% to 93.89% with the state average being 97.29%.  Much of this decrease was due to the new regulations on vehicle/property tax collections which changed this year, so those numbers should improve, according to the auditors.

The county’s expenditures are also up: $22,523,000 from $22,142,000 in 2012.

County Manager Williams pointed out that a debt service payment was made in and around the county’s new judicial center.

“Our expenditures didn’t go up in general government because of other activities,” Williams said. “It went up because of the debt service ($565,462, up from $234,643 a year ago).”

Many of the audit report’s big jumps came from expenses for the new judicial center, but hardly enough to offset the good news of spiraling revenues.

Addressing the Total Fund Balance increase, Winston said the increase in governmental funds is a bit inflated due to quite a bit of money coming in and around the new courthouse.

“You’re pretty much in line with last year once you pull the judicial center out,” said Winston.

The county’s General Fund Revenues increased about a million dollars, according to the accountant; but the county came in about $700,000 to the good on the General Fund Expenditures side.

The Appropriated Fund Balance increased $123,925, which was very favorable against the budget.

“That shows very good control of your management here,” he said.

Winston said the county’s tax base is holding good and the county’s tax levy is growing, which is another good sign.

In the county’s Proprietary Fund balance there was a sanitation department operating loss of $149,283, with much of that attributed to the privatization of the service and that capital improvement funds exceeded what was anticipated.

“We still didn’t use as much,” said county Finance Director, Robbin Stephenson. “$359,000 was actually appropriated and the $149,000 is what was actually used.”

Once that was cleared, the understanding was that it still represented a significant saving for the county.

“We did not have to make those expenditures over and over again,” said Williams. “Because of that we were able to upgrade the (county sanitation) building using the (solid waste) fund balance.”

“Overall the county had a good year,” said Winston. “We appropriated $2 million worth of Fund Balance, and we didn’t use any.

“You should compliment (the County Manager) and her team in doing a good job,” concluded Winston. “Because I’m really pleased with how the numbers turned out.”

Newly elected Commission chairman Bill Mitchell echoed the praise of Williams and her finance staff of Stephenson, Helen White and Phyllis Kaylor.

“It goes without saying that you have all done a good job this year,” Mitchell said.

“It’s not easy accounting for all this money that comes in and goes out,” replied Williams. “I want to thank (my team), because it’s a lot to keep up with.”