The good; the bad

Published 11:47 am Monday, November 13, 2017

JACKSON – With the first quarter of the fiscal year complete, Northampton County’s Finance Officer Leslie Edwards presented an operating budget update to the Board of Commissioners here Monday morning during their regularly scheduled meeting.

Edwards’ update for the first quarter was generally positive with almost every fund operating in the black. The general and social services funds combined together showed revenues exceeding expenditures by a total of $1,295,226.17. This number is up by $23,075 compared to the first quarter of the prior fiscal year.

The enterprise fund was broken down between water and solid waste. After the first three months of the fiscal year, the water fund is operating with revenues over expenditures by a total of $557,756.09 which is an improvement from last fiscal year’s first quarter numbers totaling $510,810.25.

Unlike the others, the solid waste fund is currently operating in the red with revenues under expenditures, coming to a difference of $122,581.24. The number, however, is still an improvement by $59,890.25 when compared to the numbers from the same quarter last year.

After the conclusion of Edwards’ presentation, the commissioners had the opportunity to ask questions. Commissioner Geneva Faulkner opened up the discussion by asking for an explanation on the solid waste fund’s financial position.

Edwards explained that the negative numbers were normal in the solid waste fund for the first quarter, but stressed the improvement over last year’s numbers. She also noted the fees for solid waste have increased beginning from July, and expressed hope that revenues would exceed expenditures by the end of the fiscal year.

County Manager Kimberly Turner also spoke up to answer Faulkner’s question, saying they would have to look into increasing the fee again if the situation doesn’t improve.

“But this is not something new,” Turner explained. “This is typical of how a solid waste fund runs. We have to assess whether or not we’re going to have to increase fees to make sure that we have revenues to sustain that department.”

Turner further explained that the issue specifically regards the county’s landfill, not the contract services. The landfill is closed, but the county operates a “convenience center” from the site which is currently staffed by two employees.

Commissioner Charles Tyner chimed in to ask a few questions of his own, particularly concerning options for where the county could save money. He first asked whether they could close the convenience center.

“Then where are people going to take their stuff that they usually bring down there,” Turner questioned in return.

Tyner then asked if they could reduce the number of employees working there to only one.

“No,” Turner answered. “They had three [employees]. I took away that third person. But because somebody has to be there to operate when one is out on the truck, out in the county, somebody has got to be there just in case somebody comes in.”

“This fund has been a problem for a very, very long time,” she continued. “And we are looking at ways to be able to make this self-sustaining because it has not been in the past.”

Turner said three months was not enough time to see whether the increase in fees would help the solid waste fund break even. Edwards added they would see more revenue coming into the fund in the coming months.

While at the podium, Edwards also gave an update on the county’s audit, stating she’s already given the auditors the final figures and they are in the process of reviewing everything.

“I hope to have a timeline of when that audit will be complete by the next commissioners meeting,” Edwards said.

Tyner requested information on the total amount of money spent on this audit to be presented at the next meeting as well in order to make sure everyone is well-informed. Edwards concluded her presentation by stating that she would get that information together.