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Fibrant debt continues to decrease, retail sales increase according to city audit

SALISBURY — Debt related to Fibrant continues to be “chipped away” at and local retail sales are the highest they’ve ever been, according to the financial report for the city’s 2016-17 fiscal year.

The 170-page report was put together by Elliott Davis PLLC and presented to the Salisbury City Council last week.

With regard to the broadband services fund, senior manager C.J. Palmer said the city’s net position increased in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

“Overall, the position is a deficit. … But it’s chipping away every year,” Palmer told the City Council.

Palmer said here have been and continue to be “large transfers” from the general fund to support Fibrant but that the city ended the fiscal year with a higher-than-expected general fund balance — $19.5 million — because city revenues were higher and some planned expenditures were not made last year.

City Manager Lane Bailey said that although the general fund balance for last fiscal year was higher than expected, that likely will not be the case next year.

“I’m not going to say that our former finance director (said) this is the worst year ever, but … we may dip into the fund balance at the end of the year more than anticipated,” Bailey said. “With the contracted services with the sheriff’s department versus staff positions, that’s increasing our salary line item over the Police Department. We’ve also had retirements in that department where paying for retirement has driven that number up. And we have a similar issue in the Fire Department with overtime pay.”

Bailey said the city is still in a “very, very safe” position because of the city staff.

“But next year, those numbers may be down a little bit,” Bailey said.

According to the report, the city’s long-term debt decreased by $7,505,974 — or 11.5 percent — during the 2016-17 fiscal year because the city continues to pay off debt.

On retail sales, the report says taxable sales in Rowan County increased by more than $116 million, or 10 percent, to $1.283 billion last fiscal year.

That is the highest ever taxable retail sale total in Rowan County, according to the report.

The report implies that the new record high is due in part to the General Assembly expanding the state’s sale base to include repairs, maintenance and installation services in March 2016.

During the last fiscal year — which was July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017 — seven new businesses opened, four businesses expanded, three building rehabilitation projects were completed and 13 facades were renovated in Salisbury’s downtown.

The report said downtown investment in the last fiscal year totaled $6.5 million.

More broadly, the city’s general fund expenditures and transfers were as follows:

• $5.01 million, or 14 percent, of the general fund went to transportation.

• $13.71 million, or 39 percent, went to public safety.

• $8.4 million, or 24 percent, went to general government expenses.

• $1.23 million, or 4 percent, went to debt service.

• $6.44 million, or 19 percent, went to other expenditures, including environmental protection, culture and recreation, and community development.

This is Elliott Davis PLLC’s second year compiling the city’s financial report.

Contact reporter Jessica Coates at 704-797-4222.

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