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Audit says county finances look OK
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Forsyth County News
Other business

Also during Tuesday’s work session, Forsyth County commissioners:

• Authorized up to $1,000 for legal representation for former voter registrar Gary Smith in his Aug. 31 state hearing.

• Split 2-2 on whether to put five greenspace properties — Buice, Eagles Beak, Harrison, Lanierland and McClure — out to bid for design. Chairman Charles Laughinghouse and Commissioner Patrick Bell voted in favor. Commissioners Jim Harrell and Jim Boff wanted to wait until they could hear a proposal about a public/private partnership with a trap and skeet facility at the Eagles Beak site.

• Approved fee increases for out-of-county athletic players and park facility rentals. Due to a large negative response, fees for concession stands were not adopted.

• Ratified an intergovernmental agreement in which the school system will pay 70 percent of the salaries of deputies working as school resource officers. One on-duty deputy is placed at each of the county’s five public high schools. Laughinghouse was absent for this vote.

• Note: All votes were 4-0, with Commissioner Brian Tam absent, unless otherwise noted.

— Alyssa LaRenzie
Forsyth County’s financials look clean and “fairly healthy,” said auditors who presented the report to the county commission Tuesday.

Mauldin & Jenkins completed the county’s 2009 audit, with largely positive results.

“There’s nothing in here that alarms me,” said Adam Freley, firm representative. “Your funds are not unhealthy, but we’ve got to always monitor rates ... and cost. I feel like the financials look pretty good.”

At the close of 2009, the county’s general fund balance, or reserves, contained about $14.7 million, which represents about 17.5 percent of the total budget.

County policy states that 25 percent of the total budget expenditures should be in reserves, which would equate to about $21 million.

The county has previously used money from reserves to balance the budget and make up shortfalls as needed.

In addition to emergencies, the reserve balance is used to help determine the county’s bond rating or ability to issue bonds.

The county’s outstanding debt in all funds at the end of 2009 totaled $329 million.

Auditors detailed 14 financial statement findings and questioned costs, such as not properly segregating some accounting duties, which can lead to misstatements in reporting.

The audit also found that a budget was not adopted for the district attorney’s seizure fund, which led to improper reporting of confiscated and seized assets.

Another finding detailed that magistrate judges, other than the chief magistrate, did not have salaries set at a rate equal or greater than state requirements.

The report also noted that several departments and funds — among them the detention center, sheriff’s office, engineering and debt services — went “excessively over budget for 2009.”

The firm recommended the county “closely monitor the year-to-date operations of all departments and consider necessary budget amendments throughout the year to properly control spending.”

Commissioners took a step toward that aim Tuesday, after reviewing the county’s midyear 2010 budget update.

As of June 30, county figures showed spending is at about 51.2 percent of the budgeted amounts, but that revenue coming in is exceeding the estimates.

Projections show that at the current rates, the expenditures will total about $83.4 million by year’s end and revenues will reach about $83 million, for an estimated deficit of about $353,000, a decrease from 2008.

Despite the additional revenue offsetting some of the increased spending, the county’s adopted 2010 budget called for $79 million in expenditures.

“If the goal of this board is to come in as closely as it can to the adopted budget ... then we’ve got a little bit of work to do,” County Manager Doug Derrer said.

Commissioners directed Derrer to ask all departments to voluntarily reduce their budgets by at least 2.5 percent to reduce the difference.

The sheriff’s office was excluded from the request, since county staff recently determined the exact amount the agency needed to operate for 2010.

Commissioners recently authorized $1.6 million to come from reserves to supplement the office’s current year budget.

Another $300,000 came from the sheriff’s jail fund, which county figures show now contains about $15,000.