Last month, Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell and Bryan Daniels of the Blount Partnership and Industrial Development Board (IDB) assured us that great things are in store for Blount County. Today one of the lead stories is about the increase in the number of free and reduced lunches that children are receiving in the local government schools.
This while the taxpayers saw a 22% increase in the local option sales tax in 2014 and a 16% increase in the property tax in 2015 (FY16).
Mitchell and the Finance Directors statement’s about the financial health of Blount County haven’t exactly been on target. Here is a January 2, 2014 email where the Finance Director assures the commissioners that “Blount County is on sound financial footing.”
A year and half later, the citizens of Blount County got a huge property tax increase a year after a 22% increase in the local option sales tax.
From: Randy Vineyard
Sent: Thursday, January 02, 2014 6:08 PM
To: Pat James
Subject: Fiscal year ended June 30, 2013 highlights
The Mayor asked that I provide some commentary on the recent correspondence you received from the State Comptroller’s Office.
The State Comptroller’s Office completed the annual audit of last fiscal year’s financial activities. The audit report has been posted on the Blount County website for public review.
First, the County has received an unqualified opinion which is always our goal. There were no audit findings and that too is our annual goal. There is a suggestion that the County consider creating an Audit Committee and this is a recurring suggestion over the past few years. There was no exit conference this year since there were no audit findings.
The following comments pertain only to the General County Fund 101 and the numbers are rounded for simplification purposes only.
The operating results for the year ending June 30, 2013, General County net assets increased $2.97 million. The ending Fund Balance was $13.05million with $11.4million of that being Undesignated and Unobligated.
Total General County Revenues were $44.55 million and total General County Expenditures/Transfers were $41.58 million on a final amended budget of $43.88 million. If you recall we missed the value of a penny on the tax rate and that resulted in $1.1million less in property tax revenue in Fund 101. However, that was offset by higher fee revenue collected by the various office holders and higher inmate reimbursements from the State and Federal governments.
On the appropriation side of the budget, the officeholders and department heads did an outstanding job of managing their budgets and significantly underspent their appropriations.
There will be a proposed budget amendment submitted to the Budget Committee at their meeting on January 6 to outline a plan to position the County for some matters likely to come up over the next several months.
First resolution, a recommendation to give non-recurring compensation supplement to County employees in Fund 101. This would be $1000 per full time employee and $500 per part time employee.
The total cost including benefits is approximately $539,100. Our employees contributed to the financial success the County attained last year and it is reasonable for us to show that recognition with a non-recurring increase in pay.
Second resolution, a recommendation that the Commission Designate/Obligate approximately $1.36million for Capital needs and Self Insurance funding needs. These two items are not appropriating or spending any money, but set aside and obligate for future needs. The Self Insurance needs are in the Workers Comp Fund and the General Liability Fund. Over the past few years we have not assessed premiums sufficient to cover claims experience. That has to be addressed soon to avoid an audit finding by the Comptroller’s Office. Therefore, should Commission decide to appropriate an amount less than is proposed to be designated for self-insurance purposes, it will be my recommendation that the designation be shifted to the Capital needs.
We will be providing a synopsis of the highlights of the budgeted funds to you in a few days.
I am very pleased with the results of the past fiscal year. This does not mean the upcoming FY ‘14/’15 budget will be without challenges because we are planning to use up to $3.3million in fund balance in the current budget year. This was a result of shifting 9 pennies from General County to Schools to meet the state mandated maintenance of effort (MOE).
However, this certainly gives us a better starting point and it validates the initiatives currently underway. Those being upgrading technology in our various fee offices for improved reliability and efficiency; reducing our annual variable rate debt costs on our existing long term debt; retiring two long term notes; and using common sense in spending the public’s tax dollars.
The take away is Blount County is on sound financial footing. We are making incremental improvements to make further operational progress in the future barring unforeseen circumstances. This could not have happened without the good leadership of our elected office holders.
I welcome your comments and encourage you to contact me with any questions.
Randy Vineyard, IOM
Blount County Finance Director