Decatur County finances improving, county administrator says

The presentation of a positive audit report of Decatur County government finances had county commissioners in a good mood on Tuesday night.

One of the highlights of auditor Ben Lee’s review of Decatur County’s finances between June 2013-June 2014 were some savings realized in the annual budget.

Decatur County took in about $281,000 more in revenue than expected; and had expenses of about $269,000 less than budgeted, Lee said.

“Every department in the county was under budget,” Lee said. “County finances are on an upward trend.”

“It’s encouraging to see the county’s financial situation improving,” County Commissioner Butch Mosely said. “It’s a tribute to our people doing the right thing.”

Another highlight was the Decatur County Landfill making a net “profit” of $1,227,395, which was returned to the general fund.

Lee also said development of an anti-fraud program for county government was in process. Lee said an anti-fraud program is designed to be a deterrent to any employee who might steal from the county.

“The purpose of reviewing financial statements is not to detect fraud, it’s to make sure the county’s numbers are not materially mis-stated,” Lee said. “Part of the anti-fraud program asks employees a number of questions to identify potential risk areas. It also gets employees to attest to certain things every year.”

County commissioners are also included in the anti-fraud program, and several have already filled out the related questionnaire.

County administrator ‘cautiously optimistic’ on financial situation

County Administrator Gary Breedlove said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the audit’s findings. He said a good barometer of the county’s financial health is how much it has to borrow from its Tax Anticipation Note (TAN) each year. The way the TAN works is, a local bank underwrites a loan that Decatur County has to repay within the calendar year, using money it expects to receive from property tax payments.

Decatur County has been approved for a TAN loan of up to $3 million in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Each year, the county has been using about $900,000 less from the TAN loan, according to Breedlove.

This year, Decatur County made its first draw on the loan on July 30 and made its last draw on September 10, borrowing a total of $1,350,000.

Breedlove said the process for obtaining approval for a TAN loan for 2015 has already begun.

“Interest rates are low right now, so we could go ahead and get approval for the loan in January and lock in the rate before it goes back up,” Breedlove said.

If further savings are realized in county expenses, perhaps the TAN note won’t be necessary to fund county government in 2017, and after that, the budget situation will be better, the county administrator said.

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