Northampton Manager addresses LGC’s findings of budget deficits

Published 11:10 am Thursday, July 28, 2016

RALEIGH – The N.C. Local Government Commission (LGC), part of the NC Department of Revenue, confirmed Monday that it visited Northampton County government officials in June to express concerns about the county’s financial operations after reviewing the 2014-15 budget audit, which got a clean bill of health from Martin Starnes and Associates, the county’s independent auditor.

Sharon Edmundson, LGC’s director of the Fiscal Management Section, said in a June 3 letter to the county, “In the General Fund, DSS Capital Project Fund, and the Public School Building Fund, certain expenditures exceeded the amounts authorized by the budget ordinance, indicating that the County’s preaudit function is not working properly.”

Edmundson also wrote in her letter, “At June 30, 2015, the Fire District Fund, the Wellness Recreation Capital Project, DSS Capital Project Building Fund, and the Enterprise Solid Waste Fund had deficits of $4,200, $366,452, $113,056, $600,244 respectively. The deficits total $1,083,952…”

County Manager Kimberly Turner said the problem was not preaudit failure by the county, but was caused by the state not reimbursing the county grant funding in a timely manner. She said the expected reimbursements did not get to the county until the audit was completed in January 2016.

The only exception to that was the Enterprise Solid Waste Fund, which had not been adequately funded for several years.

Turner stated that the 2016-17 budget seeks address this deficit by raising the county’s Solid Waste collection fee by 53 cents per month, increasing it from $204.50 to $210.86 for taxpayers for the year.

Edmundson said in her letter, “We encourage the County to adjust solid waste fees to a sufficient level to allow for the accumulation of resources for payment of a portion of these future liabilities.”

That budget audit was late being prepared, Turner said, as have other audits for the past few years.

She said that is one of the reasons the county is changing auditors this fiscal year. The county has used Martin Starnes and Associates for 20 years, Turner said.

“It’s a good practice to change auditors,” Turner said. “You need a fresh pair of eyes.”

Turner also said the LGC sends these kinds of letters annually after the audit is completed.

Brad Young with the NC Department of the State Treasurer confirmed that LGC staff visited the county to both review the findings they had concerns about and to meet the county’s “new” Finance Officer, Leslie H. Edwards, who came on board in the summer of 2015.