County government shows financial improvement in latest audit

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The 2015 fiscal year turned out to be positive financially for county government.

Rowan’s annual financial audit shows an improving financial position and a notable increase in a fund that functions as a savings account. The most evident sign of improvement is a widening gap between revenue and expenditures. Rowan spent about $127.3 million from the general in the 2015 fiscal year and brought in $130 million. Both are a couple million more than the prior year.

Called fund balance, Rowan’s savings account also increased by a few million dollars in the 2015 fiscal year, which started July 1, 2014, and ended June 30, 2015.

County Commissioners received a copy of the annual audit during Monday’s meeting. A majority of discussion consisted of dissecting portions of  the report. Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds attributed the positive financial news to work by county government’s management. Finance Director Leslie Heidrick thanked staff in her departments and other county staff.

The most widely discussed portion of the audit focused around Rowan’s fund balance, which jumped up a few million over the prior year and remains above the state’s required minimum. In the fiscal year 2014 audit, Rowan County’s fund balance sat at $9.38 million. In latest audit, Rowan’s fund balance is $13.17 million.

Heidrick attributed the increase to revenues exceeding expenses and a loan that covered costs from the West End Plaza purchase. The loan came nearly one year after Rowan purchased the former Salisbury Mall for $3.45 million. It wasn’t reflected in the 2014 audit.

During Monday’s presentation, the accounting firm contracted to do the audit also broke down revenues and expenditures in 2015.

A majority of Rowan County’s revenues — 60 percent — come from property taxes. About 17 percent are classified as restricted intergovernmental revenues, which include state and federal money passed down to Rowan for a specific purpose. Sales taxes represent about 14 percent of total revenues. The remaining 9 percent of Rowan County’s general fund revenues are labeled other, according to the audit.

Property taxes rose from the 2014 to 2015 fiscal year, according to the audit. The increase — about $700,000 — came from motor vehicles.

Sales taxes increased by about $1 million because of an increase in local commerce.

Restricted intergovernmental revenue also increased because of a rise in funding for Social Services programs.

Rowan’s contracted accounting firm, Martin Starnes, broke expenditures into four categories. Education was the largest, at 31 percent, and human services was second at 22 percent. Public safety, mostly the sheriff’s office, was fourth at 19 percent. A category labeled other is third at 28 percent.

Rowan County also has outstanding debt from past Rowan-Salisbury School System projects, which would increase the amount of money directed toward education.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.