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Audit reveals excellent news

WINTON – The financial status of some line items have increased while others were down, but the bottom line of the 2013-14 Hertford County fiscal year saw significant gains over the previous budget year.

At their Dec. 1 meeting, the Hertford County Board of Commissioners was presented the annual audit as compiled by Winston, Williams, Creech, Evans & Company, with the assistance of local county officials.

Jim Winston, representing the auditing firm, praised the county for improving their financial status. He noted that revenues vs. expenditures for 2014 exceeded those from 2013 by nearly $3 million.

In 2013, the county posted revenues of $26.3 million and expenditures of $25.5 million (a net gain of $802,195). The 2014 numbers revealed $28.1 million in revenues compared to $25.2 million in expenditures (+ $2,914,058).

“Hertford County had a good year,” said Winston. “Your numbers were very good.”

Winston said his firm’s work yielded an “unmodified opinion” on Hertford County’s finances for 2013-14.

“That’s a clean opinion which is exactly what you want,” he said.

In a breakdown of the revenues, the audit noted increases in ad valorem taxes ($13.7 million in 2014 vs. $12.7 million in 2013), and sales tax ($4.01 million vs. $3.92 million).

“You saw some upticks in your revenue, that’s a good sign in today’s economy,” Winston said.

On the expenditure side, there were increases in General Government ($3.6 million in 2014 vs. $3.55 million in 2013), Public Safety ($6.45 million vs. $6.04 million), and Cultural & Recreational ($95,970 vs. $91,821). However, the largest jumps came in Capital Outlay ($5.11 million vs. $1.08 million) and Debt Service ($1.18 million vs. $564,462).

“The new judicial center impacted the Capital Outlay and Debt Service parts of your budget,” Winston noted. “But you had already accounted for those increases.”

The other traditional top expenditures dropped – Education ($5.14 million in 2014 vs. $5.42 million in 2013), Human Services ($6.54 million vs. $6.75 million), and Economic Development ($644,002 vs. $969,229).

Even though the county’s fund balance dipped from $20.65 million to $16.49 million – again due to the new judicial center – Winston said the general fund balance available for appropriation as of a percentage of expenditures took an upward turn – 33.10 percent in 2013 compared to 36.15 percent in 2014.

“The local government guideline is eight percent; the state average is 26.28 percent, so you are better than the state average which tells me you’re in good shape,” Winston stated.

Another good sign is that the General Fund revenues – predicted at a shade over $22 million at the start of the 2013-14 fiscal year – came in at nearly $23.5 million. Meanwhile, the expenditures were under what was forecasted: $23.47 million as of July 1, 2013 compared to $23.2 million at the end of the fiscal year (June 30, 2014).

“What’s very favorable is that $1.35 million of fund balance was appropriated, what you said you were going to spend out of your savings at the start of the budget year, but there was a General Fund gain of nearly $400,000. You didn’t use fund balance; you built fund balance,” Winston remarked.

There were two other keys to Winston’s favorable report….the county’s adjusted tax levy increased by nearly $800,000 from 2013 ($12.66 million) to 2014 ($13.45 million), and the tax collection percentage rate increased from 93.89 percent in 2013 to 95.03 percent in 2014.

The county’s rural water system reported gains from 2013 to 2014: the Southern District had operating revenues of $1,030,741 compared to $568,213 in expenditures for an increase of $462,528 while the Northern District’s numbers were $485,168 in revenue and $340,755 in expense for a gain of $144,413.

The county’s Sanitation Department saw a net loss of $70,338 in 2013-14 (revenues of $903,361 vs. $973,699 in expenses).

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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