Report: Cherokee collected more, spent less in ’12
by Erin Dentmon
edentmon@cherokeetribune.com
January 11, 2013 12:21 AM | 1669 views | 2 2 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CANTON — Cherokee County government spent less money than budgeted in the 2012 fiscal year and brought in slightly more revenue than expected, according to a pre-audit review of the county’s finances.

The 2012 fiscal year lasted nine months, from January to September 2012, as the county transitioned the timing of the fiscal year. The 2013 fiscal year runs from October 2012 through September 2013.

Total county spending in FY 2012 came in at $116.6 million, Chief Financial Officer Janelle Funk said at Tuesday’s Cherokee County Board of Commissioners meeting. County officials had budgeted $133.7 million for the fiscal year’s expenses.

Both the operating and capital project funds came in under budget for the 2012 fiscal year, Funk said.

The county spent $32 million in capital funds, putting the county well under the $45.8 million budget.

Funk said these savings are primarily due to delays in capital projects.

“It has more to do with project timing,” she said.

The county spent $84.6 million in operating funds in 2012, coming in $3.3 million under budget.

Funk said 20 of 25 of the county’s operating funds came in under budget, with savings of $1 million or more for the general fund, the fire fund and the Community Development Block Grant fund.

Significant savings in the fire fund and the block grant fund came from delaying projects and hiring.

“(The block grant) is from the federal government to be spent on community projects. It isn’t a true savings. That will be spent,” Funk said.

Personnel costs came in $500,000 under budget, making up half the general fund’s $1 million savings. Other under-budget areas in the general fund include worker’s compensation at $150,000 under budget and operating costs, which came in at $300,000 less than budgeted.

On the revenue side, the county brought in $93.6 million from tax revenue and other non-reserve sources. County officials had budgeted for $93.2 million in revenue.

The county collected $30.8 million in SPLOST money in 2012, up 6.1 percent from 2011’s collections of the penny sales tax.

Of the county’s 30 funds, 28 ended the year with a better fund balance than budgeted, Funk said. Fifteen of these funds took in higher revenues than expected.

Of the 13 funds that used reserves in 2012, Funk said all used less than budgeted.

The county’s low point for cash on hand came in September, when the county had a $1.9 million cash balance. Funk said the county’s financial policy requires a low cash point of $6 million.

“We need to look at building those reserves back up,” Johnston said.

Cherokee County continues to have the lowest number of county employees per capita among Atlanta Regional Commission counties with 5.72 full-time employees per 1,000 residents.

The county employs 1,099 people full-time and 170 people part-time.

Funk said the county’s insurance and benefits fund ended the fiscal year with a fund balance of $1.5 million. With that number representing 19 percent of annual claims, Funk said the fund balance is now within the recommended range.

Funk said the FY 2012 budget included six months of interest payments (January through June) for Ball Ground Recycling. The county is still making these payments as officials continue to look for a site operator for the facility.

According to Funk’s budget summary, the Resource Recovery Development budget was originally set at $608,000 for FY 2012. Total spending at the end of the fiscal year came to $1.2 million.

The Emergency Medical Services has a negative cash balance of -$134,000 as of Dec. 31, but the county will be making some changes to help the fund recover.

Funk said receipts were down for EMS, but cash expenses, at $3.1 million, came in exactly as budgeted.

“They didn’t overspend. This fund is expected to recover,” she said.

The county has sent a notice of intent to terminate a contract with the third-party billing administrator and will begin the search for new ambulance billing and collection services this month, Funk said.

In all funds, the county spent $400,000 more from January to September 2012 than during 75 percent of the 2011 fiscal year. Funk said major variances included $5.2 million more in parks bond spending, with a $2.7 million decrease in SPLOST expenditures.

As of Tuesday’s meeting, $4.1 million in 2012 property tax revenue was outstanding, about 7 percent of the total amount owed.

“That’s great news, that we’re making these collections,” Funk said.

The transition to an October-September fiscal year will help the county better align its revenue and expenditures.

“This will give us a truer cash basis and a better look at our fund balance,” Funk said.

Commissioner Harry Johnston, an accountant, said the new fiscal year calendar will help the audit process work more smoothly.

Funk and the commissioners praised county employees and department heads for working to keep costs low.

“This is because of the ownership of the department heads. They’re running the county like it’s their own business. Hats off to them,” Commissioner Jason Nelms said.
Comments
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Ms. Wonder Why
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January 11, 2013
Since the county did so well, isn't it about time to at least give our public servants...firefighters and deputies a cost of living increase? They haven't had one in years!
Curious007
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January 12, 2013
They have not had a cost of living adjustment ( even that bare minimum) in almost seven years.
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