In the ‘black’

Published 11:04 am Thursday, February 9, 2017

WINTON – Hertford County’s finances are in excellent shape.

That’s the word of Jim Winston, an auditor with Winston, Williams, Creech, Evans and Company when he made his annual report on Monday before the county’s Board of Commissioners during their regularly scheduled meeting.

“The county has received a clean opinion, an unmodified opinion, which is the best you can get,” said Winston as he made a presentation of his company’s audit of the local government entity’s financial books for fiscal year ending June 30, 2016.

The key factor in any audit is to have the entity’s revenues exceeding their expenditures. That was the case in 2015-16 for Hertford County as they had revenues of $30.59 million and spent $26.92 million, which resulted in a net gain of nearly $3.7 million. That net gain was traced to the county receiving nearly $3 million more in revenue in 2015-16 than during 2014-15. Meanwhile, expenditures over that same period of time were nearly the same.

Hertford County also experienced a rise in its total fund balance. That figure rose to a shade over $14 million, up from $12.24 million. As for the General Fund Balance available for appropriation as a percentage of expenditures, that figure was at 34.33 percent as of June 30 of last year. The state average for counties the same size as Hertford is 34.72 percent.

“This is where counties of similar size and population  measure up against each other,” Winston explained. “You are right on top of the state average and well above what the LGC (Local Government Commission) recommends which is eight percent.”

The county also experienced an increase of cash on hand, rising from $14.45 million in 2014-15 to $15.77 million for fiscal year ending June 30, 2016.

As for General Fund revenues and expenditures, Hertford County gained money there as well. In its amdned budget for 2015-16, the county expected to receive $23.86 million in revenues, but actually wound up with $24.63 million. For expenditures, the budget called for allocating $26.63 million, but only spent a shade over $25 million.

“You were over $700,000 to the good on the revenue side and $1.5 million favorable on the expenditure side,” Winston stressed. “I would say you are going in the right direction on both sides.”

In balancing her budget for 2015-16, County Manager Loria Williams used $1.4 million of appropriated fund balance. However, by the end of that fiscal year, there was only the need to use $27,000.

“Great job in controlling what you appropriated and what you actually had to use,” Winston stated.

Winston also praised the county for its tax collection rate, which has grown since 2014. That year it stood at 95.03 percent, followed by 95.77 percent in 2015. He said the 2016 rate was at 95.86 percent.

“That’s slightly below the state average of 96.47 percent, but ya’ll are moving in the right direction,” he noted.

The good news continued with the county’s proprietary funds….all in the ‘black.” Winston reported that the county’s Northern Rural Water District ended the year with a net gain in operating income of $131,095; the Southern Rural Water District finished 2015-16 on the plus side at $504,538; the Tunis Sewer District gained $15,353 in operating revenue over expenses, and the Solid Waste (Sanitation Dept.) ended the fiscal year to the “good” at $58,676.

“Each of these proprietary funds were positive; that’s a good job because it’s always hard to make a profit in smaller districts,” Winston said.

“Overall you had a good year; you followed your budget and held down expenses,” he concluded.

The commissioners praised Williams and her staff for the news shared through the audit.

“They did a great job in implementing a sound budget and then for a great job in managing the money of our taxpayers,” said Commission Vice Chairman Curtis Freeman. “Ms. Williams and her staff do a great job, which allows us to keep our tax rate unchanged. I commend her and her staff for their great work.”

While Williams said she was grateful for the overall good financial health of the county, she was ecstatic over the fact that 2015-16 was the first year she can remember all four proprietary funds operating in the black.

“They are 100 percent user fees, and this is the first year they are 100 percent self-efficient,” Williams remarked. “We didn’t have an operating loss in any of the four departments. Mike (Bradley, the county’s Public Works Director) has worked hard to get the operating costs in line with the revenues within those areas.”

“Thank you, Ms. Williams, for your outstanding work,” said Commissioner Bill Mitchell. “Each year I see the great things you do with our budget.”

“I too thank Ms. Williams and her staff for an outstanding job,” Commissioner Johnnie Ray Farmer stated. “All of our employees, over 200 strong, do a great job, while we, the commissioners, are the face of the county in the community and we get asked all these questions. But when the rubber meets the road, it’s the great work of our county staff that needs to be commended. They make this audit what it is because they work to manage the money within their department’s budgets.”

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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