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Audit shows county's finances are strong
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Effingham County commissioners learned the county’s finances are in good shape and the county is operating efficiently after their annual audit was presented during their Jan. 3 meeting.

“You’ve put more accountability on yourself and your departments,” said Donald Caines of Caines, Hodges, Pace and Corbitt, P.C., the firm that conducted the audit.

We really didn’t have any major issues. The deficiencies we had in previous years were corrected. There’s always recommendations we can make, but nothing we see as a deficiency.

For fiscal year 2007, the county’s revenues topped $43.7 million, with nearly $30.8 million in general fund revenues. Special purpose local option sales tax receipts were more than $8.3 million. Fire fees collected were more than $2.8 million and the county took in $1.75 million in other funds.

The final general fund budget was $29.7 million and expenditures were $27.1 million, putting revenues ahead of spending by more than $3.6 million.

“For the last couple of years, we have tried not to dip into that fund balance,” finance director Joanna Floyd said. “We really did budget on a conservative estimate. Our revenues have exceeded expenditures for each year. That goes back to not spending every dollar we bring in.

“We have had a mandate from the board of commissioners to look at what we need to do over what we want to do and doing those things without having to find the money.”

Property taxes accounted for 33.5 percent of the county’s revenue, and sales taxes generated 36.6 percent, according to the audit.

General fund revenue was $13.9 million in 2004 and is expected to decrease from $23.1 million last year to $22.4 million this fiscal year. The FY08 budget is $28.864 million.

Of the county’s enterprise funds, sanitation revenues came in at $2.26 million, with an operating surplus of $233,757. Water and sewer revenues were $555,683. There was an operating loss of $491,999, but that was a reduction of 39 percent from the previous fiscal year’s operating loss of $808,384.

“The one we have all tried to get our hands around is water and sewer,” Floyd said. “The operating loss is considerably less, and that is a significant improvement. There’s been a considerable increase in the number of customers. That’s where the increase is, from customers coming on line.”

The number of water customers was 492 through November, up from 140 in January 2006. There also has been an increase in the number of sewer customers, from 60 in January 2006 to 318 in this past November.

The county also now has $4.2 million set aside in rainy day funds, money to carry it through normal operations in the event revenues dry up.

“We’re looking at six to seven months of having funds on hand so we can make sure the expenditures of the county are paid for,” Floyd said.

As part of the audit, county finance department staff also had to identify the county’s roads and what was underneath them.

“We’re trying to stay on top of things,” Floyd said.