01/20/05 — County reserves increased in 2004

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County reserves increased in 2004

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on January 20, 2005 2:15 PM

Wayne County has reversed a trend of spending its savings, commissioners learned this week.

For a second straight year, the county was able to increase its unreserved fund balance for the general fund. That term refers to the county's savings that are not set aside for any particular purpose.

The county's savings equalled $12,260,528, as of June 30, 2004, the end of the 2003-04 fiscal year, according to auditors Nunn Brashear & Co.

That's an increase of nearly $220,000 from a year earlier. That follows a $20,000 increase in its general savings during 2002-03.

The county had diminished its savings over several years as it paid for shell buildings, school construction and other projects.

It's taken strict budgeting to turn things around, County Manager Lee Smith said. Department heads have worked hard to reduce and avoid expenses. Many vacant positions have been held open, he added.

The unbudgeted savings equal nearly 16 percent of the county's budget, excluding the services that generate revenue, such as landfill and EMS. That's slightly higher than the average for counties the same size as Wayne, the auditors said.

But Smith said that he would be happier if the fund balance was a few percentages higher. "It'd be safer," he said.

Other highlights of the audit include:

*The county's total assets exceeded its liabilities by $63 million, as of June 30, 2004.

*Net assets increased by more than $4.8 million during the year.

*Property tax collections netted nearly $39 million, up from almost $32 million in 2002-03. The increase was primarily due to the revaluation.

*Sales tax collections were almost $18.3 million, up from almost $15.5 million the prior year. Fiscal year 2003-04 was the first full year that the county received 2.5 cents of the sales tax rate. It rose from 2 cents in December 2002.

*The county continues to maintain an "A1" bond rating with financing agencies, which will help secure lower rates when it needs to borrow money.

Other business

The commissioners affirmed their Jan. 4 decision to rezone Denize Odeh's property at the intersection of Collier Street and U.S. 117 North to allow her to open a convenience store.

Commissioner Andy Anderson again opposed the rezoning. He is concerned about store traffic interfering with the Belfast Fire Station, across U.S. 117.

No citizens spoke against the rezoning during county hearings.

Also Tuesday, the commissioners did the following:

*Renewed the county's insurance with VFIS for its emergency medical services system. The policy will cost $88,453, about 8 percent more than last year, but EMS has added employees, an ambulance and coverage area since the last policy was written.

*Met behind closed doors for 30 minutes to discuss industrial prospects and legal matters. No action was taken.

*Approved a resolution for "School Board Recognition Month."

*Recognized the winners of the annual "Scholastic Shoot-out."