Raleigh-based firm returns ‘clean’ audit to Landis for 2019-2020 fiscal year

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 10, 2021

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

LANDIS — A Raleigh-based firm hired to conduct Landis’ 2019-2020 fiscal year budget told town leaders Tuesday things are headed in the right direction for the town’s finances.

Ann R. Craven was hired in July to conduct the audit. Craven attended the town’s board of aldermen meeting and told the town the Local Government Commission had “no findings that relate to internal controls,” and that there are no necessary tweaks or repairs needed.

Craven said the firm found a total of 27.85% left for the town’s fund balance, which is partially a savings account. The LGC prefers that amount be at least 40%. In the 2018-19 year, that rate was only 8.77%.

“So things are getting better,” Craven said. “And I think it is because of the overseeing that (Finance Director Diane Seaford) has done with reducing the debt.”

Craven credited Seaford with ensuring the town’s notes payable accounts were paid off, along with all accounts being reconciled, including some checks written back in 2006 and 2007. Additionally, separating staff’s duties prevents issues seen with the town’s finances in the past. She added that a $650,000 rebate from Electricities, the town’s electrical provider, helped.

Seaford told board members Landis was one of 20 municipalities in the state to be selected for a “quick audit” with opinions from several independent firms per the state treasurer’s office and the LGC. One finding was that the town needed to implement a formal purchasing and financial policy. Seaford plans to have one for the upcoming fiscal year.

Seaford said later this month the town will host a budget workshop where she will go into greater detail where the town stands financially. A financial report as of Jan. 31 shows the town has currently reached 73% of its revenues and 58% of expenditures in the general fund, 72% of revenue and 47% of expenditures in the water fund, 64% of revenues and 53% of expenses in the sewer fund and 80% of revenue and 58% of expenses in the electric fund.

Also at the meeting, Municipal Engineering Services Company, PA, of Raleigh presented suggestions following the completion of a survey. In 2017, the town received a $150,000 grant from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, Division of Water Infrastructure, to improve the overall water and wastewater operations. The grant was used to update the water system GIS database and mapping system, detect leaks, prepare an asset management plan, develop a 10-year capital improvement plan and develop a water system hydraulic model.

A total of 3 miles of old cast and ductile iron water mains were assessed. Only a few minor leaks were discovered. A decision was then made to reallocate remaining funds designated for the study to build a water system hydraulic model.

Municipal Engineering Services Company suggested the town adopt a 10-year capital improvement plan and move forward with the most critical projects.

Also at the meeting:

• Landis’ Revenue and Billing Supervisor Rebecca Powell, who began working for the town in December, shared with aldermen a portal will be implemented for customers within a month. The new portal will better depict to customers their usage and help the town better monitor leaks as they happen.

• Town aldermen approved advertising an upset bid to purchase a vacant wooded lot on Linn Avenue. The lot is .47 acres and is located directly across from John Eckard’s business and he has offered $5,000. The appraised value of the property is $19,404, but board members felt the appraisal was too high and called for Eckard to “meet in the middle” at a purchase price of $7,000. Interim Town Manager Leonard Barefoot will move forward with advertising for upset bids.

• Board members approved a 2020-21 fiscal year budget amendment in the amount of $20,000 to fund the purchase of a truck for the town’s Public Safety Department, which combines both the police and fire operations. The $20,000 was moved from the salaries line item in the budget.

• Board members approved moving $478,848 from the sewer fund to the water fund in the 2020-21 budget. Seaford informed the board the sewer fund owed the water fund that amount as the result of an unauthorized practice by town leadership years ago. This move puts the funds in better position and eliminates any potential issues in the next audit.

A budget workshop session was scheduled for 3 p.m. on March 15, which will be recorded.