Bertie finances improve

Published 12:11 pm Sunday, January 11, 2015

WINDSOR – The financial news for Bertie County is good.

Monday afternoon at the scheduled January meeting of the county’s Board of Commissioners, Jeff Best of the accounting firm of Carr, Riggs & Ingram of Belhaven presented a draft report of the audit findings for Bertie County financial statements ending June 30, 2014.  The 2014 audit marked the second annual report that Carr, Riggs & Ingram had prepared for the county.

The news in the thick 146 single-page report was positive with increases in tax collection and a healthy fund balance, despite no tax increases for the past few years.

“This report has a standard unqualified opinion,” said Best. “That means in our opinion the financial statements are presented fairly in all respects.  There’s some very good information provided here.”

The report says the current property tax collection percentage for Bertie is 96.44 percent for the fiscal year 2013-14.  That represents a slight increase from last year, but remains the third-highest collection rate for the county since 1981-82.

County Manager Scott Sauer noted that the report emphasizes the commitment to fiscal stability by Bertie management and government with the collection of taxes, the development in the county’s fund balance and reserves, and changes that have occurred in the past more than 12 months.

“On the general fund side it’s the initiation of the Paramedic program and the changes for our General Fund,” Sauer said.  “On the utility side, for the Water Department, the changes that really were initiated by the Board’s engagement of Green Engineering and their system review and that company’s recommendations to deal with a county-wide water loss of over 40 percent dating back to 2007.  We’ve made some improvements to enhance the performance of our wells which has really put us on a strong course both fiscally and operationally.”

Best continued by pointing out that Bertie County’s governmental funds reported combined ending fund balances of $9,279,789, which was a decrease from $10,109,688 in comparison to 2013.  He further pointed out that nearly $10.75 million was due to the construction of the new Bertie High School.  Approximately 22-and-a-quarter percent of that total amount ($2,064,812) was restricted, or non-refundable.

“The county is operating two different types of funds, the governmental fund and the business-type activities,” Best continued.  “The governmental funds are the general fund, Bertie High School and the tax re-evaluation; the capital reserve for schools is also consolidated in the general fund.  They’re also operating non-major funds: emergency telephone, 2006 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), two 2011 CDBG’s, the Golden Leaf Fund, Pilot Distraction Fund, and the Maintenance Building Fund.”

Best said the county’s business type activities were its four Water Districts and the county’s Water Service Fund.   At the end of the fiscal year, unassigned fund balance for the General Fund was $6,477,912, or just over 31.5 percent of the total general fund expenditures of $20,538,285 for the fiscal year.

“The government’s total net position increased by $1,408,432,” Best noted.  “That was primarily due to the governmental funds.”

The Board seemed especially pleased that Bertie County’s total debt decreased by $$1,786,785, or just under 3 percent during the current fiscal year.  The key factor in that decrease was the county’s repayment of debt principal.

“The assets and deferred outflows of resources of Bertie County exceeded its liabilities and deferred inflows of resources at the close of the fiscal year by over $24.5 million,” Best said.

Following Best’s presentation, Commission Chairman Ronald D. “Ron” Wesson requested the Board’s approval for Sauer to post the Draft Audit on the county’s website for viewing by the public beginning Jan. 6.

“This a chance for our citizens to see it and analyze it,” Wesson said, “a chance to scrutinize it, look through it, and get back to us if they have questions.”

Sauer reminded the Board that this was merely a draft and said the Local Government Commission’s approval of the report was expected by the end of the week.

Wesson also invited Best for a return visit before the Commissioners during their work session around the county budget.

“Once we’ve had a chance to adjust this, listen to questions and concerns from our taxpayers, we’d like for you to come back.  As we start planning for the next budget, we can start looking at some of these things and how it works,” Wesson stated.

“I’d be happy to,” Best replied.