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Auditor notes ‘good numbers’ in Nash County finances

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Nash County’s finances are in solid shape, auditor Stuart Hill told county commissioners Monday.

“The tax collections are good, the fund balances are solid,” he said. “You’ve got good numbers.”

According to the financial statements, Nash County had revenues of $90,354,818 during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2018 and spent $88,401,635 for a $1,953,183 surplus and a net position increase of $2,914,478.

The water and sewer fund showed a “profit” of $168,047 and the solid waste fund had a surplus of $318,365.

The county has a total fund balance of $42,676,518 with an unassigned fund balance of $28,319,089. The unassigned balance, which is available for spending if necessary, is down almost $2 million from the year before, but that’s because the restricted or committed funds are higher, including $750,000 each set aside for a new high school in northern Nash County and the early college building on the campus of Nash Community College.

Auditors said the county’s internal financial controls were good, but commissioner Fred Belfield asked how recent large irregularities had occurred in other counties despite audits.

“We don’t necessarily hit every single department every year,” Hill admitted. “Over the years, we’re going to get to your department.”

County Manager Zee Lamb said the auditors looked at every department in Nash County but not every single expenditure.

“It’s not always an easy thing to do,” he said, noting that finance officer Donna Wood “as a result of some of those scandals (has) implemented certain features that will protect us from following into the same traps.”

“It keeps them honest when they know we’re looking at it,” Belfield said.

Only about 55.32 percent of the county’s revenues come from property taxes, the audit showed. The county’s biggest expenditure is in education, at 27.26 percent, followed by human services at 26.17 percent and public safety at 24.62 percent.

Total property valuation in Nash County was $7,409.922,37 and the taxes levied came to $49,661,074, both categories less than in 2017. The tax rate has remained a stable 67 cents per $100 valuation for the past five years.

The auditor also praised the county’s tax collection rate of 98.73 percent, which he said was higher than the state average.

In other business, commissioners unanimously approved the first two contracts for the Northern Nash Water System. The first contract, for water lines, was awarded to ELJ, Inc. of Jacksonville with a bid of $5,746,250. The second contract, for an elevated water tank, was awarded to Maguire Iron, Inc. of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for a bid of $1,039,000.

Before beginning construction, the contracts must be approved by the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Water Infrastructure.

“It’s something we’ve been working on a long time and we really look forward to getting it done,” said commissioners’ Chairman Robbie Davis.

The board also awarded a $215,100 design contract to the Wooten Company for professional services for the Middlesex Corporate Centre infrastructure improvements.

The contract covers engineering design, bidding and construction administration; geotechnical investigation services; easement survey and mapping; and construction observation.

The Middlesex project includes 3,000 linear feet each of roadway and an eight-inch water main, 3,500 feet of 12-inch water main, 3,050 feet of sewer, and a 250,000 gallon elevated water storage tank.

The project is funded in part by large grants from the Golden Leaf Foundation and the N.C. Department of Commerce.

In other business, service awards were handed out to county employees. It was also announced that county planning director Nancy Nixon will retire at the end of February.