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China Grove reports sound financial shape

By Jessie Burchette

Salisbury Post

CHINA GROVE — Town officials got a triple dose of good news on the financial front this week.

The news came during the annual audit report from Sherrill & amp; Smith, CPA’s of Salisbury.

“Everything looks great,” said Rick Musselwhite, of Sherrill & amp; Smith in reporting to the Board of Aldermen.

Musselwhite said the firm gave the town an “unqualified” report — the best available for its financial affairs.

He had more good news.

The town’s fund balance also grew during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2005.

“It’s back up significantly, you’re now in sound shape,” said the auditor, pointing out that the state requires a town maintain a fund balance equal to 8 percent of the year’s expenses.

“Fifty percent is where you want to be,” said Musselwhite, saying that China Grove now has its fund balance at 53 percent. At the end of the fiscal year, the town had a $948,000 unreserved fund balance in its general fund — the account that includes police, fire, administration.

He also praised finance officer Mary Jo Bopp and Town Manager Eric Davis for paying close attention to deal in keeping town records. “That’s now always the case in local government,” said Musselwhite.

As the auditor continued to praise the work of Davis and Bopp, Alderman Allen Welter weighed in. “You keep talking and they will want a raise.”

Mayor Don Bringle also expressed his appreciation to Bopp and Davis, citing the continued improvement in the town’s finances. “We’re making steady improvement … the staff makes us look good.”

And the third bit of good news.

Bopp presented the board with a certificate from the Government Finance Officers Association based in Chicago, recognizing the town for its comprehensive annual financial report.

The certificate is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting.

The certificate is for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2005.

The comprehensive report includes budget and audit information as well as a wide range of statistical information including histories of the town’s tax rates, tax collections, as well as top 10 employers and other data.

For example, Hitachi Metals N.C. continues to have the largest assessed value at $34.8 million. That’s 14.5 percent of the town’s total assessed value of $257 million.

R & amp;L Carriers, a trucking company, is the top employer with 180 employees in 2005.

Davis said the document is intended to put all of the town’s financial information out in an easily readable fashion. “Anyone can come in and read the audit report. It tells you everything. We go beyond what the law requires.”

Bopp said it was a lot of extra work and at first she wasn’t sure they could do it.

“Eric would push me … he kept saying, ‘We can do it,'” said Bopp. She went on to describe it as a joint effort involving Davis, Musselwhite, Town Clerk Amanda Eller, and some former town employees.

“China Grove is probably one of the smallest towns in North Carolina to get the award,” said Davis.

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