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China Grove audit shows contribution to reserve; former mayor criticizes town board

CHINA GROVE — The China Grove Town Council on Tuesday night received the results of an audit conducted on the town’s financial statements for the 2019-20 fiscal year.

Will Honeycutt, the certified public accountant who completed the audit, delivered the report. Honeycutt’s audit found that China Grove ended the fiscal year on June 30 with a fund balance of $2.8 million, an increase of $139,918 in comparison to the prior year. The increase came despite a pandemic.

Town Manager Ken Deal said that the excess money would go in the reserve fund and that the audit was a “good report.”

“Anytime you have money at the end of the year to put into reserve it’s a good thing,” Deal said. “Overall, we’re in very good financial status, everybody is pleased with how it turned out.”

Deal said that the report showed that the town’s decision at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to limit spending paid off.

“Because of COVID, we weren’t sure when sales tax was going to come in so we started cutting back on expenditures,” Deal said.

The bulk of the town’s revenue comes from property and sales tax.

Deal said that the town told department heads to “not spend anything that they didn’t have to.” As a result, the town didn’t purchase some items that weren’t absolutely necessary. 

“We needed a chipper for public works, but we didn’t buy it because we wanted to see what everything looked like,” Deal said.

Deal said that China Grove will continue that strategy of only spending the bare minimum until the pandemic subsides.

The audit report also showed that China Grove decreased its total debt by $331,784 during the fiscal year, which was a result of payments made.

“It’s good that you pay it down and that’s one of our main objectives,” Deal said.

In other meeting business:

Former China Grove Mayor Lee Withers spoke during the citizen comment portion of Tuesday night’s meeting. Withers said that he was troubled by the town council’s recent rejections of housing developments, which was brought to his attention when a developer called him.

“I got a call last week from a concerned developer to the extent that he was concerned that he may be looking to represent someone to bring jobs to our community and that this board had voted down three or four times in the past year housing developments,” Withers said.

In October, the China Grove Town Council halted plans for the construction of a 373-home subdivision over concerns of proposed lot sizes.

Withers mentioned the fact that the Rowan County Board of Commissioners passed an incentive package on Monday to land the company behind “Project Popcorn,” a food processing company that could bring 1,200 jobs and $127 million investment to the county.

“If they were to bring said jobs to the community, where would they live? It’s something that I would just encourage, hopefully y’all have reevaluated some housing and are willing to look at that and if you do, that would be great,” Withers said. “I think it’s a concern and if something does work out with some jobs, great, I thank y’all for working on that. It’d be great for them to have somewhere in China Grove to live.”

Withers also brought up the fact that it’s Black History Month and commented that there wasn’t anything on the town council agenda about the month, even though the council has made a proclamation about it in the past. Withers held up a piece of paper with a proclamation from Gov. Roy Cooper about Black History Month on it.

“I thought that was maybe something y’all wanted to do,” Withers said. “It’s something we’ve always done in the past.”

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