Audit finds Cleveland in good financial shape
CLEVELAND — Town commissioners got good news Monday from auditor Eddie Carrick.
In other business
The Cleveland Board of Commissioners also did the following Monday:
• Accepted a plaque from Cub Scout Pack 308. The scouts received the Service Above Self award for the food drive they conducted for the food pantry at South River United Methodist Church in Woodleaf.
• Set a public hearing for 5 p.m. Feb. 4 for the site plan from Daimler Trucks to build a natural gas filling station at Freighliner.
• Set a planning meeting for the annual Spring Festival, which will be held May 18, for 6 p.m. Jan. 17.
• Received an update from Commissioner Travis Summitt about emergency services for western Rowan County. He said the temporary ambulance station was up and running out of Salisbury as of Monday.
Earlier in the meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Danny Gabriel told the board the Cleveland Fire Department responded to 358 calls last year, 200 of which were in the town limits.
“That’s a good many,” he said. “It’s going to be a really big deal to get that station out here.”
The annual audit yielded an unqualified opinion, the highest available, during fiscal year 2011-12.
Carrick, a certified public accountant at Lexington-based Allred & Carrick CPA’s, said revenue grew by $165,000, up from $39,000 the prior year, an increase he attributes to the increase in ad valorem taxes from Freightliner.
The water fund netted $32,000, an increase from $26,000 the previous year, and the sewer fund swelled to $98,000, up from $25,000, Carrick said.
“I think y’all should be highly commended for the fact that you’ve been able to hold down expenses,” he said.
Mayor Pro Tem Danny Gabriel said residents might to be alarmed by the increase in the sewer fund and begin questioning their bills, but the town needs to “stay the course” to plan for the future.
“The information is good, but it can also work against us,” he said. “As we all know, $100,000 is nothing when you spend $300,000 for a lift station.”
Carrick said town expenditures fell by $19,000 during 2011-12.
The town’s current fund balance of about $2.9 million represents about 363 percent of expenditures.
Carrick said that figure may seem high, but those dollars would go quickly if the town was faced with an emergency like a natural disaster.
“Boards in the past have done a lot to get Cleveland in the financial position it’s in right now,” he said. “This will allow y’all to do something that maybe a lot of other small towns aren’t going to be able to do here in the next few years.”
Carrick said about one-third of the 15 towns he works with would be in a bind if a unforeseen expense, such a replacing a firetruck, popped up.
“That would put them in a world of financial hurt, but you’re in the position to handle those kinds of things,” he said.
The town’s ad valorem tax collection rate is higher than the state average of 96 percent at 98.2 percent, Carrick said.
Commissioner Pat Phifer asked Carrick if the town should do anything differently in the future.
“There’s always room for improvement,” Phifer said.
Carrick said nothing stood out to him.
“We don’t really do an efficiency audit per say,” he said. “But I tell you what, you didn’t get into the position that you’re in right now without years of work.”
He encouraged the board to remain conservative and prepare for unfunded mandates from the state and federal governments.
“Washington is pushing them down to Raleigh and Raleigh is pushing them down to you because they’re broke and don’t have a whole lot of choice,” he said. You’re going to see some things in small towns over the next five years that you never imagined.”
Phifer expressed his gratitude for the town’s department heads, who have worked to keep Cleveland in good fiscal shape.
Carrick commended town clerk Cathy Payne for her work to make the audit process run smoothly.
“She does an excellent job in preparing the information for us so that when we come in we can get in and get out as quickly as possible,” he said.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.