County finances get good report

Published 4:46 pm Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Decatur County Commissioners received a good report on the county’s most recent financial audit at their Tuesday meeting, with only minor issues noted.

Certified Public Accountant Richard Stalvey of the Valdosta, Ga., firm Fowler, Holley, Rambo and Stalvey presented the audit for the county government’s fiscal year ended June 30, 2008. In a memo to commissioners, the auditors stated they believed the county’s financial statements accurately stated its financial position.

Financial highlights presented in the audit included: total assets of $54.4 million with liabilities of $9.2 million, for net assets of $45.2 million; overall expenses of $24.2 million; and a governmental fund balance of $6 million, of which $4.8 million was unreserved.

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The audit presents an overall picture of how the county takes in money from various sources as well as how it spends it on various services.

The county gets approximately 27 percent of its total revenue from property taxes, 39 percent from fees, fines and charges for services; 22 percent from sales tax receipts and other taxes; and the remaining 12 percent from a combination of grants, contributions, investment income and other revenues.

About 53 percent of the county’s major expenses go toward public safety services, such as the Sheriff’s Office, jail and prison, fire protection, emergency medical services, E-911, the coroner, animal control and emergency management.

As of June 30, 2008, the county had about $7.5 million in outstanding long-term debt principal.

Stalvey said the fact the audit only listed three minor deficiencies in the county’s internal control over financial reporting; essentially, its system of safeguarding against potential fraud.

Auditors made the statement that “The Sheriff’s Office opened a bank account during the year ended June 30, 2006, without Board of Commissioners approval and without the proper supervision of the county’s Finance Director.”

On Tuesday, Sheriff Wiley Griffin gave The Post-Searchlight a copy of a memo dated Jan. 12, 2006—the same date the account was created—in which former County Administrator Jim Bramblett authorized its creation. County Finance Director Carl Rowland, who was hired later in 2006, said Tuesday that approval of new bank accounts is solely the duty of county commissioners, whom he said would likely consider approving the account retroactively.

Decatur County Jail Administrator Linn Harrell explained the Sheriff’s Office keeps two checking accounts separate from the county’s general fund. One stores money kept in inmates’ accounts for their spending on sundries; another stores revenue received for inmate housing, bond fees, reimbursement of medical expenses, commissary proceeds, inmates’ payments for their use of over-the-counter medication and profits from inmates’ calling cards, among other items.

Additional deficiencies noted were the fact that the county has a limited number of employees in each of its offices, a condition the auditors noted is common to most small local governments; and the fact that certain departments’ spending exceeded their budgets. Of the eight departments that overspent, one exceeded their budget by $40,000, three others exceeded between $99,000-$132,000 and four others exceeded by less than $10,000.