Northampton’s fund balance rises

Published 5:13 pm Friday, May 6, 2022

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JACKSON – The amount in Northampton County’s general fund balance continued its upward trend for another year, according to the annual audit report presented to the Board of Commissioners here on May 2.

Stuart Hill, a representative from the audit company who completed the work, shared the details of the county’s financial data covering FY21, which spanned from July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021.

Hill noted that the audit was completed a little later than usual, citing some transitions and turnover in the county’s finance department as the cause of the delay.

The total general fund balance for FY21 was $25,724,080. That is an increase of over $6.3 million from the previous fiscal year, and the largest increase in the past five years. These numbers show a continual upward trend in the general fund balance, which contained only $12.1 million in FY17.

According to the report, the county’s general fund revenues for FY21 totaled $36,289,652 with the majority of those funds coming from ad valorem taxes. That amount is about $3.2 million higher than the previous fiscal year.

General fund expenditures, however, also increased during FY21, totaling $31,634,420. That number is up $1.2 million from the previous fiscal year. Public safety and human services were listed as the largest expenditures for the county.

The general fund revenues over expenditures amount also increased, with a total of over $4.6 million. That is an improvement from the $2.6 million figure from FY20. The solid waste fund also showed a revenues over expenses total of $48,081. That fund was in the red back in FY19 and years prior.

Things didn’t look as nice for the water and sewer fund which showed revenues under expenditures for the second year in a row. That amount was a negative $351,272 for FY21.

The Board of Commissioners just recently approved a water and sewer rate increase at their Feb. 7 meeting, citing rising costs of purchasing and treating water and wastewater as the need for the increase. At that meeting, Board Chair Charles Tyner noted that the USDA had also said the county needed to implement a rate increase.

The FY21 audit report showed an increase in the county’s tax collection percentage, rising above 96 percent for the first time in at least five years.

Hill rounded out his presentation by noting that the audit firm had provided some recommendations to address any findings, and the Board must address those issues with the Local Government Commission.

Following the presentation, Tyner called it “a darn good report.”

“It says that Northampton County is fiscally managing their resources,” he explained. “This audit report tells the story.”

“We know we have some in-house kinds of things that we need to improve on,” Tyner acknowledged, adding that County Manager Julian Phillips – who started work with the county in March – would be thoroughly looking through the report.

“No one likes to have findings, but findings are opportunity to improve,” Phillips added. “That’s what we plan on doing. That’s our expectation.”

Tyner credited the county’s good financial position as the result of investments which have paid off, recent refinancing to lower interest rates, and eliminating previous economic incentive expenditures.

“Next year’s audit is going to be better than this year’s audit. Financially, we’re going to be better than we are this year,” Tyner concluded.