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Public gets first view of county audit report

(Dec. 19, 2014) County officials on Tuesday presented the county commissioners with the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for fiscal 2014 containing data they’ve seen before but not in report form.

This was the first time the public had access to the data, County Finance Officer Phillip Thompson said. Independent auditor TGM Group in Salisbury reviewed the document and found it to be in compliance with standard accounting practice and a fair representation of the county’s financial information.

According to the report, the variance between the county assets and liabilities was $11.7 million less than it was fiscal 2013, shrinking from about $171 million to $159 million.

Governmental activities suffered a revenue loss of about $3.6 million. A part of that resulted from a $4.2 million drop in property tax revenues because of falling assessments. At the same time, however, income taxes increased nearly $1 million and “other local taxes” went up by almost $723,000.

The report explains this shrink as a decrease of $1.5 million in recordation receipts offset by a $250,000 increase in transfer and a $495,000 increase in room taxes.

Expenses also increased by $7.4 million, from $174 million to $181 million. The increases were attributable to a $2.5 million increase in health care costs, despite no change in benefits. Public safety expenses related to health care increased by $2 million and the addition of 13 new positions. The previous commissioners planned for this by paying $4.6 million into an existing state pension plan, which technically leaves this line item as a net decrease of about $2.9 million.

Appropriations to the Board of Education increased by about $1.5 million. Small capital improvements for the Board of Education cost the county about $400,000 and $3.8 million for the new Snow Hill High School was expensed here.

Almost $289,000 was funded to pay for health care of contractual employees, as required starting Jan. 14, 2014. The county also increased grants to municipalities by $722,000.

At the end of fiscal 2014, the governmental funds including the general fund, the capital projects fund, the debt service fund and a generalized “other” fund had a balance of almost $96 million, including almost $19 million in emergency/rainy day funds.

This is an increase of a bit more than $36 million than last year and is mainly due to the county borrowing $44 million in long-term debt for renovations and construction at Snow Hill High School. The debt service fund increased by only $8.

Proprietary funds, including water and sewer utilities, solid waste and the department of liquor control, lost about $1 million this fiscal year. Solid waste decreased due to less trash being deposited in the landfill from businesses, the volatility inherent in recycling markets and depreciation on a piece of leased equipment the county decided to keep.

Water and wastewater saw a loss because of less grant money coming in for the Mystic Harbour wastewater project construction as well as an increase in expenses due to the increased capacity of the facility. Liquor control reported $300,000 in increased sales with $100,000 in increased expenses due to opening a new store.


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