Town receives clean audit for 2015-2016

Published 6:57 pm Friday, March 31, 2017

BELHAVEN — The Town of Belhaven fared well in its latest audit, but there’s still work to do, according to auditor Lee Grissom, with Preston, Douglas & Associates.

Grissom presented the fiscal year 2015-2016 audit report to the Belhaven Board of Aldermen at its Monday night meeting. The fiscal year ran from July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016.

According to the report, Belhaven’s net position (assets minus liabilities) totaled $11.5 million, but Grissom said the Town’s general fund balance continues to decline — from $1.5 million in 2013-2014, to $1.2 million in 2014-2015, and $1.12 million in 2015-2016.

“There’s kind of a negative trend in the fund balance over the last several years. I think (Finance Director Kelly Brady) said it’s gone back even more so than three years. We’d like to see that turn around, as well,” Grissom said.

Mayor Adam O’Neal said some of that decline can be attributed to the efforts to reopen a hospital after Vidant Pungo Hospital closed on July 1, 2014.

“As the community stabilizes from losing the hospital, and all the effects of that, that will stabilize,” O’Neal said. “We’ve had an awful situation here as far as that goes.”

Grissom said the main causes of debt liability for the Town are the water and sewer fund and business-type activities. The Town’s finances also showed overspending on budgeted line items.

O’Neal said the overspending can be explained by changes in emergency services over the past couple of years, including the ongoing countywide switch to a new communications system — a switch Belhaven is still awaiting.

“We budgeted based on what the county said they were going to do with the dispatchers,” O’Neal said.

“That’s almost the total amount we went over,” Belhaven Manager Woody Jarvis agreed. “It’s been ‘any day now’ for about a year and a half. However, it does sound very reassuring that it’s going to happen within the next month. But it is totally at the discretion of the Beaufort County sheriff’s department as to when it happens. We don’t have a say.”

Despite these issues, Grissom said the Town’s unassigned fund balance, which is money the Town can spend at its discretion, is in a good place at $730,000, and the enterprise fund for water, sewer and electric has a net position that has grown by $1.7 million since 2014.

The rate of property tax collection is also at 93 percent, he said.

“You’re seeing an increase in net position over the last four years, so it’s a positive trend,” Grissom said.

The Town of Belhaven is rounding out the fiscal year 2016-2017, which will end June 30. An independent auditor will assess the 2016-2017 finances in early 2018.