Thursday, January 31, 2013
Berkeley County’s financial house is in sound order according to an audit of the 2011-2012 fiscal year.
Larry Finney of Greene, Finney and Horton accounting firm presented his audit to Berkeley County Council during council’s January meeting Monday night.
“Berkeley County’s finances are in good shape,” he said.
Council received an “Unqualified Opinion,” which, according to Finney, is the best possible rating his firm could give.
“I applaud Berkeley County and its staff as we give this rating every year,” he said. “Even when times were difficult Berkeley County has earned the best audit rating we could give.”
The county had an unassigned fund balance of $12.9 million – 22 percent of its operating budget. The county’s policy is to have at least 15 percent on hand.
“There were times when the county’s fund balance was not in such good shape, but you have worked hard over the years to restore your fund balance and even exceed the policy’s minimal acceptable standard,” Finney said. “This is the best it’s been in years and we applaud that.”
The fund balance provides the county cash flow until property taxes are collected, and an excess fund balance provides the county with needed money in times of emergency.
County supervisor Dan Davis said the audit shows Berkeley County is on sound financial footing. “I think Larry Finney summed it up best when he said we’re in good shape,” Davis said. “We have worked hard to get the county where it is today.”
“This audit and the unqualified opinion is a credit to our financial staff here,” said councilman Tim Callanan, who took over as chairman of the Finance Committee when council reorganized earlier this month.
Jack Schurlknight, outgoing Finance Committee chairman, agreed. “We have a great financial team here and this audit reflects all the hard work the county has put in over the past few years to get back on sound financial footing,” he said.
Still, there are issues Berkeley County needs to address such as Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB), which is health insurance for retired county employees. The county’s storm water management fund and the loss in 911 emergency call fees also need to be funded.
Finney said the rise in cell phone technology and the decreasing number of telephone land lines are the culprit in regard to the rapidly declining 911 fees.
“Land lines are going away,” he said. “And currently there is not a plan in place by the government to charge cell phones 911 fees.”
Finney added that the emergency call account balance is nearing zero and needs to be dealt with soon. “This is why you have a strong fund balance,” he said. “So you can handle unexpected situations like these.”