The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

December 4, 2013

Stanly available fund balance reaches $14.6 million

Board OKs solar power districts

By Ritchie Starnes, News Editor
CNHI News Service

Wednesday, December 4, 2013 — Revenues for Stanly County’s 2013 general fund decreased slightly from last year while its expenses increased. But the county managed to improve its available fund balance by $4.6 million since 2012.

Overall, the county remains in sound fiscal shape, according to  Ko Tang Cha-Moses, audit manager with Martin Starnes & Associates. Monday night she presented  an audit report regarding the county’s financial health through June 30, the end of the 2013 fiscal year.

County leaders bolstered the available fund balance to 27 percent, compared to 19 percent last year. The Local Government Commission (LGC) recommends that counties maintains at least 8 percent in available fund balance to pay bills in the event of an emergency.

A fund balance serves as a measure of the county’s financial resources available, Cha-Moses said.

“Stanly County has a little more than three months of fund balance available,” Cha-Moses said.

Stanly’s available fund balance stands at nearly $14.6 million.

“(LGC) use it to compare you with other units (counties) similar in size,” Cha-Moses said.

Stanly’s total fund balance for the fiscal year is more than $18.7 million, which continues to climb at a steady pace. Last year, the total fund balance was $17.8 million. In 2011, it was $15.9 million.

An available fund balance is derived by subtracting the county’s non-spendable proceeds ($66,374) and the stabilization set by state statute ($4.1 million), or not available by state law, from the total fund balance.

County revenues ended at $54.8 million, compared to last year’s $55.1 million, a decrease of $375,480. Expenditures climbed to  $66,223 over 2012.

The county’s decline in revenue is mostly because of a decrease in state and federal grants, Cha-Moses said. Lottery proceeds were also down.

At 53 percent, ad valorem taxes remain the largest form of revenue for the county. Restricted intergovernmental accounts were 17 percent. Other revenues, such as permits, fees, sales taxes, other taxes and licenses, and investment earnings also represent 17 percent of the county’s revenue. Sales and services represent 13 percent.

The restricted intergovernmental revenue, the category for state and federal grants, experienced the most significant decline of nearly $1.6 million.

Human services account for 28 percent of the county’s expenses from the general fund. Education represents 24 percent with public safety at 23 percent. Other expenses accounted for 25 percent.

All of Stanly’s expenses increased with the exception of education, which dropped by 1 percent over last year. The loss of lottery proceeds specifically hurt the education allocation.

As a result, “the county had to increase its contribution to the schools,” Cha-Moses said.

The purchase of EMS vehicles caused a spike in public safety expenses.

All of the county’s enterprise funds experienced financial losses. The water districts, utility and airport enterprise funds all experienced declines, which is not too uncommon, said newly-elected Commissioners’ Chairman Tony Dennis.

“We’ve got bad water here, arsenic in the water,” Dennis said.

“We’re going to keep investing in the water. It’s a long process.”

He expressed the need for similar investments at the Stanly County Airport. Between the addition of hangars for aircraft storage and a subsequent property tax base and the increased ability to sell fuel, investments at the airport should eventually pay dividends.

In other news, commissioners unanimously approved a text amendment to add solar energy power generation overlay district (SEPGS) to the county’s zoning ordinance.

At an October public hearing, residents voiced concerns about the amount of electricity a residence can generate for sale to a power company. Per the recommendation of the Planning Board, Stanly’s new text states “a residence can generate as a permanent use by two times the amount of electricity used on site.”

The move paves the way for Stanly County to tap the growing installations of solar energy power generation systems across the state.

In another unanimous vote, the board approved a rezoning request that allows a telecommunications tower to be erected at 24733 Ridgecrest Road. Plans call for a 195-foot monopole tower to be erected on a portion of a 78.7-acre tract.

In addition to Dennis being named new board chairman, Commissioner Lindsey R. Dunevant was unanimously chosen as vice chairman.

Call Ritchie Starnes at (704) 982-2121 ext. 28 or email ritchie@stanlynews