The Pickens County government received a glowing report from auditors at this month’s commissioners’ meeting, with the county showing low debt and steadily increasing reserves.
Highlights of the FY 2017 report include:
•General Fund revenues exceeded expenditures by $651,000, with expenditures down by $63,000 over 2016.
•General Fund revenues were up four percent over the previous year, due in large part to a $731,000 increase in taxes collected. Of that increase, property tax collections were up $212,000. County CFO Faye Harvey said some years property tax collections come in late and are credited to the next year. Sales tax was up $258,000, and a financial institution tax of $145,000 was collected that was owed the county from previous years. The insurance premium tax was also up $99,000.
•Overall General Fund revenues were under the final budget by $1 million due to capital lease proceeds under budget by $200,000; taxes under budget by $352,000; and charges for services under budget by $403,000.
•Overall General Fund expenditures were below final budget by $1.7 million due in large part to public safety being under budget by $623,000 for salaries and equipment, and public works being under budget by $394,000 for fewer capital lease and repairs/maintenance expenditures than expected. In public safety, fire department salary amounts were budgeted to fill all vacant positions and some of the positions were not filled. Also, capital outlay amounts for equipment were budgeted but funds were not spent during the 2017 fiscal year.
The auditor applauded the county’s low long-term debt as well. Pickens has total long-term debt of $1.4 million, which is significantly lower than the $8.6 million average debt for counties of similar size. Of that $1.4 million, $1 million is for capital leases that will be paid off in 2020 and $418,000 for the Pickens County Community Center that will be paid off in January of 2019.
Pickens CFO Harvey, who auditor Beth Grimes called a huge asset to the county, said although they are on the right path there is still time before the county will be able to reduce its reliance on Tax Anticipated Notes (TANs), or short-term loans the county has used to float operations until property taxes are collected.
“I am pleased with the progress the county is making toward reducing TAN borrowing, however we are not at the point of eliminating TANs,” Harvey said. “At Dec. 31, 2017 the county’s General Fund cash balance was $4.3 million, which is only 16 percent of the FY 2018 operating budget. To eliminate TAN borrowing, we would need 30 to 35 percent cash balance to begin the year. The fund balance is continuing to increase; however, although it does include cash, it also includes assets such as receivables, prepaid items and inventories that are not readily available to convert to cash.”
For Harvey, the most significant part of the audit was increased SPLOST collections, which are up over 10 percent compared to 2016. For FY 2017, the county collected $4.2 million in SPLOST revenues.
When asked about the strategy for continuing to come in under budget each year and increase reserves, she referred to clear communication.
“All departments and elected officials receive monthly reports with current budgetary information,” she said, “and this information is reported to the Board of Commissioners at each monthly meeting.”