Catawba County’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2015, shows the County continued to deliver services in a prudent fiscal manner.
Paula Hodges, Partner with Martin Starnes & Associates, CPAs, P.A., told the Catawba County Board of Commissioners at its December 7 meeting that “the County improved its financial position” as a result of its conservative approach to budgeting and spending. Hodges told the Board that the County received a “clean” audit opinion on its financial statements for Fiscal Year 2014-2015, and also stated that the firm was pleased with the County’s internal control structure and financial accountability throughout the year.
Jeanne Jarrett, Catawba County’s Interim Finance Officer, discussed several aspects of the County’s financial report in her presentation to the Board, including the fact that most major revenue sources saw an increase, continuing a modest economic recovery for the region.
“Local revenues increased as real and personal property tax revenues saw a 1.4 % increase. In addition, sales tax revenues increased by 6.9% from the year before, which is a positive indicator for the local economy” Jarrett said.
Property tax collection rates increased by 1.06%. The County’s tax rate of 53 cents per $100 valuation for the 2014-2015 fiscal year – fifth lowest among North Carolina counties with a population of 100,000 or more – is one third of the State’s legal limit of $1.50.
On the expenditure side, the County’s General Fund spending was basically flat, though County departments collectively spent less than was budgeted for Fiscal Year 2014-2015. Despite the flat spending, the County continued to demonstrate a deep commitment to funding education, as well as increasing its investment in the delivery of public safety services.
When purely local funding is considered, Catawba County’s three public school systems and Catawba Valley Community College received the highest percentage of County funding, at 49%. Catawba County appropriated $40,828,491 for operating expenditures for the three school systems and CVCC, a 2.1% increase from the previous year. Public safety spending represented 23% of total expenditures, with investments made in new and replacement vehicles for Emergency Services and the Sheriff’s Office as well as additional road patrol deputies in the Sheriff’s Office to keep up with increased call volume.
Public Health and Social Services expenditures represented 12% of total local funding. Local government expenditures for Social Services increased 2.8% while Public Health expenditures declined by approximately 3.5% from Fiscal year 2013-2014, as services were shifted to other providers, and State funding levels were reduced.
Catawba County has traditionally had a goal to keep two months’ worth of operating expenses in reserve, approximately 16%, in part because of cash flow issues, since property tax bills are sent to taxpayers in July but revenues are slow to come in as most taxpayers wait until near the January deadline to make payments. The reserve is also kept in case of emergency circumstances, and to insure adequate funds are available to meet urgent economic development opportunities that may arise during the course of the year.
The audit report showed the County exceeded this reserve requirement for fiscal year 2014-15 and continues to have more than three months’ worth of operating expenses in reserve. Jarrett reported this was accomplished by the County continuing its conservative approach to managing County financial resources, including departmental under-spending of approved funds and planned revenues coming in higher than expected.
The County’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report may be viewed online at http://www.catawbacountync.gov/Finance/CAFR.asp while the Popular Annual Financial Report, which is designed to present highlights of the Annual Financial Report in a more concise format may be viewed online at http://www.catawbacountync.gov/Finance/PAFR.asp.