Better late than never

Published 4:04 pm Tuesday, December 26, 2023

JACKSON – Though it is overdue, the audit report for Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) was presented to the Northampton County Board of Commissioners at a special called meeting on Dec. 18.

The audit covers the county’s finances for the fiscal year which began on July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022. Alan Thompson, representing the audit firm who completed the work, presented the information to the board.

According to the report, the county’s total Fund Balance (General Fund) was $26,663,232 for FY22, up a little less than $1 million from the year before. Thompson noted that those numbers have been trending upwards in the past few years, pointing to the $16 million total the county had in 2018.

Of the Fund Balance total, $19.7 million were unassigned, not restricted funds.

General Fund revenues totaled $37,885,490, which is an increase from the prior year. As usual, ad valorem taxes brought in the most revenue for the county.

“That’s why we’re always talking about [tax] collection percentage, because it’s such a big revenue source for the General Fund,” Thompson said.

In fact, the tax collection percentage for FY22 was 96.77 percent, which has also been trending upwards the past few years. But it’s still under the state’s group weighted average, which was 98.14 percent in FY21.

General Fund expenditures totaled $34,297,933 in FY22, which also marks an increase of about $2.6 million from FY21. Public Safety, Human Services, and General Government were the largest expenditures for the county.

Thompson stated that revenues were over expenditures for the General Fund, Water and Sewer (Enterprise) Fund, and the Solid Waste Fund. In previous years, expenditures had been higher for the Enterprise and Solid Waste Funds.

“Another thing that’s interesting and very positive is your breakdown of your debt at $19.5 million [total]. And if you go back to 2018, that number is $25.4 million,” Thompson said.

He noted it was “healthy” for their financials to see increases in the fund balance and decreases in debt.

Thompson also briefly went over the audit findings, which included bank reconciliations not performed in a timely manner, departments which overspent funds, old accounts not being closed, a late audit submission, and a few other similar issues.

“I know I might have appeared to skim over some of these findings,” Thompson explained. “They’re not small and I’m not trying to minimize them. But they’re also old, and you have a new staff in place, and they’re working hard to fix that.”

“I know that we’ve had changes in the Finance Department,” Board Chair Charles Tyner acknowledged. “We cannot put the findings on the present Finance Department because they were not here. But we’re expecting them to straighten it out.”

County Manager Julian Phillips, who was hired in March 2022 just a few months before the end of FY22, stated that they’ve put in place several procedures in the Finance Department that should correct those issues in future audits.

Despite the issues, however, Tyner said he was pleased with the numbers and the hard work of the Finance Department, a sentiment that was echoed by Commissioners Melvetta Broadnax Taylor and Kelvin Edwards.

Tyner also asked if Thompson had an estimate on when they would receive the FY23 audit, which is also overdue but could not be started until FY22 was completed. Thompson said his goal is the end of February.

Edwards motioned to accept the FY22 audit report, and Broadnax Taylor seconded. The vote was unanimously in favor among the three commissioners. Geneva Faulkner and Ed Martin were unable to attend Monday’s meeting.