'Found' money wasn't missing

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — Carroll officials are accounting for the differences between a recently released audit report, which showed a fund balance of $10.5 million, and what the treasurer’s report showed.

The differences are procedural and technical, Supervisors’ Chairman Sam Dickson said in remarks at the outset of the regular July meeting Monday. The county also issued a press release about the audit.

The audit report is meant to monitor Carroll’s bookkeeping and accounting principles and safeguards. For the fiscal year that ended June 2007, Carroll contracted the firm Robinson Farmer Cox to perform the audit.

The figure of a $10.5 million fund balance is correct, as far as auditing procedures go, Dickson said, hoping to clear up confusion in the matter.

“And it was stated that somehow or other we had found money or there was lost money,” he said. “Let me assure you: There’s no lost money in the county. There’s none to be found.”

The audit report is different than the monthly figure reported to the county supervisors by the treasurer, Dickson continued. “So, when you see one balance that is a lot higher than the other, you’re surprised.”

The treasurer’s report for June 2007 showed a $7.2 million balance.

So, why two balances?

Dickson said the audit report shows funds that the treasurer’s report doesn’t. Included in the audit report were funds that weren’t shown on the treasurer’s report because they were already earmarked for an expense.

For example, the audit report included $1.5 million that was already set aside for personnel expenses for teachers in the school system, the chairman said. “So the money is there, but it’s committedee the treasurer’s report doesn’t show it, because it’s going to be spent money.”

Auditors recommend having a 10 percent balance as a rainy day fund, which for Carroll would be about $7.4 million, based on a $74 million budget. Dickson noted that a balance of $7.2 million is a good position for the county to be in, because it’s close to the auditors’ recommendation.

With a declining economy, fiscal year 2008 budget estimates for revenues were kept on the conservative side, according to information from the county.

“The economy of Carroll County was better than expected and the fund balance will reflect an increase in FY 2008.”

County officials will transfer $2 million straightaway to the school system, as July is the beginning of a new fiscal year, Dickson said. This money, needed to pay debt service costs, comes out of the $9.38 million being shown on the treasurer’s report now, according to information from the county.

Carroll gets more than $11 million of its revenue through real estate taxes, and the county collects those taxes starting in October. Dickson said that means the county hits a low point in September because there’s little revenue coming in at the time.

Another reason for maintaining a balance is that the county doesn’t have to borrow money through a revenue anticipation loan, he said. A revenue anticipation loan costs the county taxpayers in interest.

There is no lost or found money, Dickson stressed. “Basically, what we did discover is that our accountant uses one system, and the county treasurer uses the other.”