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has sidebar- commish-audit schools and factoid box

By Jessie Burchette
Salisbury Post
Rowan County went on a bit of a spending spree in fiscal year 2007.
The county spent $140 million, which equates to just over $1,000 for every county resident.
Not to worry, the county’s auditors say. The county’s finances and books are in very good shape. The county received the highest grade ó that’s an unqualified report, in auditor speak.
Sam Leder, a partner in the Concord office of Potter & Co., recently delivered the audit and related information, which runs more than 100 pages.
The audit is incorporated in the Comprehensive Financial Report compiled and produced by the county’s finance department.
Meeting with county commissioners, Leder noted that the state switched to a simplified audit procedure five years ago.
“This is 109 pages of the simplified” version, Leder said while laughing and holding up a copy of the report.
Leder praised Finance Director Leslie Heidrick and her staff for their work. Most of the report is put together by the Finance Department.
The audit covers county finances from July 1, 2006 to June 30, 2007.
Spending actually dropped in 2007 by almost $16 million ó down from $156 million the previous fiscal year, the peak construction year for nearly $80 million in school bond projects. A large chunk of the money in the 2007 budget was also school bond money to complete several school projects, including Carson High School and Shive Elementary.
Leder, whose firm has done the county audit for a decade, praised improvements in the county’s financial housekeeping, including the paper trail.
“Things are a lot better today than 10 years ago.”
In the 1998 audit process, Leder noted, auditors had several issues with the the Department of Social Services. Auditors weren’t able to locate files required for compliance with state and federal programs.
“That’s all been cleaned up,” he said.
Leder also praised the county’s addition of an internal auditor this year, calling it a wise move. In part, the internal auditor periodically checks the various departments that take in cash and checks.
Although commissioners dipped into the fund balance for the 2007 budget, total county savings grew by just over $1 million, leaving Rowan with $41 million in total fund balance.
The undesignated portion of the fund balance ó money not committed to any project ó remained virtually unchanged at $18.9 million.
Responding to questions from commissioners, Heidrick said the fund balance is not excessive.
Heidrick also responded to questions about the county’s bond rating of AA3 with Moody’s, and AA- with Fitch. Heidrick said the ratings are basically the same.
She said it is unlikely that Rowan could improve its rating significantly. She noted that much larger counties with larger fund balances get the higher ratings.
She said the county has a record of good management and maintains a reasonable fund balance. Heidrick added that the major downside is the county’s per-capita income.

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