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Better late than never

JACKSON – Though it was later than they would have liked, the Northampton County Board of Commissioners finally have a completed audit for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2017. Alan Thompson, a representative of the company who completed the audit work, presented the information to the Board at their regular meeting held on Monday, Apr. 15.

This comes almost a year after they received another delayed audit, the one covering the fiscal year 2016.

As previously reported by the News Herald, Northampton County has had difficulties the last few years in getting an audit report completed in a timely fashion. This was due to a variety of issues, including staff turnover and problems with bank reconciliations.

“Before we move forward with our strategic plan, we’ve got to know we’ve got the money. We have to feel confident in knowing we’ve got the money,” said Board Vice Chair Geneva Faulkner, explaining the importance of the audit to those in attendance. “We need to have accountability in every department.”

“We’re doing all our due diligence to be in good fiscal shape so events like this do not happen again,” added Commissioner Kelvin Edwards.

According to the audit report presented by Thompson, general fund revenues for FY17 totaled $34,478,651. The majority of these funds came from ad valorem taxes. The second largest source of revenue was intergovernmental revenue. Other sources included licenses, sales, and services.

The general fund expenditures were lower, totaling $33,244,177. Human Services continued to be the county’s largest expenditure. Public safety and education followed as the next largest expenditure sources.

Revenues over expenditures totaled a little over $1.2 million.

Thompson reported the tax collection percentage for FY17 was 95.27 percent. That number is only a bit lower than the 95.54 percent reported for FY16. In comparison with the last five years, however, Thompson reported a general positive trend for tax collection percentages, noting the number was around 93 percent in 2013.

The total fund balance in the General Fund was $12,170,274. That’s an increase of almost $189,000 from the previous year. Thompson noted an overall trend for this fund balance to increase during the past few years, explaining there was only a little over $7 million in the same fund in 2013.

“That’s definitely a positive direction,” Thompson said.

The fund balance percentage available was 30.6 percent, a “dramatic change,” Thompson said, from five years prior when the percentage had dropped to 9.78 percent.

“The financial condition is not in bad shape,” Thompson concluded for the fiscal year in question.

But even though the numbers were positive, Thompson stressed there were significant issues in recordkeeping which caused the delays.

After the report, Board Chairman Charles Tyner asked when they could expect to have the next audit report for the fiscal year which ended June 30, 2018. He emphasized the importance of having up-to-date audits in order to apply for grant funding for county projects.

“The time all really relates to the county itself,” Thompson explained.  “The county itself has to give me a reconciled bank statement that I can begin to work from.”

Thompson said he didn’t know how long it would take to go through all the information once he receives it from the county.

“We’re going to do whatever it takes,” said Interim County Manager Robert Murphy.

The Board approved the contract for Thompson’s firm to start work on the FY18 audit right away.