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Auditors report shows prosperity in Victoria County

By Melissa Crowe
July 9, 2012 at 2:09 a.m.


FINANCIAL REPORT HIGHLIGHTS

• The county's assets exceeded its liabilities at the close of 2011 by $37.1 million. Of this amount, about $10.5 million is available to meet the county's ongoing obligations to citizens and creditors

• The county's governmental funds reported combined ending balances of about $11.7 million at the end of 2011. Of that, about $8.2 million is available as unassigned fund balance

• The general fund balance was about $9.2 million at the end of 2011, about a $3.7 million increase over the previous year. The unassigned portion of fund balance was about $8.7 million or 94 percent of total fund balance, or 31 percent of total general fund expenditures for that year. The county wants this level at 25 percent

• The county's general obligation debt netted a decrease of $1.1 million. The key factor in this decrease was the bond payments made during 2011.

MORE ACTION

• Approved advertising for bids for renovations to the Victoria City-County Health Department

• Received $52,000 grant from the Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness Grant, awarded by the Texas Department of Emergency Management

• Received $455,273 grant from the Coastal Impact Assistance Program Environmental Response and Restoration Network for the construction and renovation of the Victoria Emergency Operations Center

• Approved $37,749 budget transfer in Precinct 1 to equipment operator salary from assistant foreman salary.

Victoria County's sales tax collections are at a 10-year high, helping to pull the region into swift recovery from the recession, officials said.

With sales tax collections peaking at $10 million in 2011, the county's comprehensive annual financial report, released Monday, showed a 106 percent change from 10 years ago, when collections lingered around $4.8 million.

County Judge Don Pozzi said the revenues have kept the county in good standing with rating agencies. The county currently maintains a AA bond rating, he said.

"This certainly is an excellent report," Pozzi said. "We've been very successful over the last year going into this year."

Stephen Van Manen, a certified public accountant with the Victoria accounting firm Harrison, Waldrop and Uherek, presented the report to commissioners during Monday's meeting.

"2009 and 2010 were tough years for everybody," Van Manen said. "This was a significant turn-around."

Commissioner Gary Burns said he was happy to see the county come in $1 million under budget on expenditures.

According to the report, the county budgeted about $28.6 million for general government, public safety, culture and recreation, and public health. They actually spent about $27.6 million.

"I really like it when we under-spend what we projected in the budget," Burns said. "It's hard to predict an accurate budget as far as revenue - all the critics say you need to cut spending - but we have a history of coming in under projected expenses ... We don't spend it just because we budget it."

Burns said with increased sales tax revenues, he wants to look at addressing the courts' indigent defense expenditures and bringing on a new position to verify indigent status.

He said the county also needs to look at its buildings and infrastructure, parking and courtroom space to see what can be added and improved.

"The main thing is just because we have it, we don't spend it," Burns said. "It's not what we want, it's what we really need."

Burns said he also wants to see the general fund meet a 25 percent reserve amount.

"I think we're pretty solid financially," Burns said.

Commissioner Clint Ives agreed.

He said the report was "certainly a breath of fresh air from 2008, 2009 and 2010."

"We're certainly on the right track with the revenue that's coming in," Ives said.

He said he wants to see the county continue to build up its fund balance and be vigilant about spending conservatively.

Commissioners will start the budget process Aug. 6 for the upcoming fiscal year.

Ives said there is a constant list of capital improvements, but the county needs to look at what they can afford before giving approval.

The county's total debt was just over $11.1 million in 2011. The debt surged in 2010 when it hit $12.2 million from 2009's debt of $4.7 million. Today, each county resident's share of the debt is about $127.

Total expenses were at $39.8 million in 2011, down about $5.7 million from the previous year largely because of of a $5 million cut to public safety.

Total assets, which range from buildings to road equipment to office equipment, have risen to $37.11 million in 2011 from $22.9 million in 2003.

Also up were total general revenues, which include taxes and grants, to an all-time high. The county collected $28 million in total revenues in 2011, compared to $27.5 million in 2010. In 2003, the county collected $18.7 million.

Property tax rates have remained stable because of growth in property tax values and the addition of new construction values, according to the report.

Sales tax revenues decreased in 2009 because of the "sluggish economy" and recovered in 2011 due to the growing local economy.

County Auditor Judy McAdams said the county is "in a great financial position."

"I think 2012 is going to be another good year for Victoria County," she said. "We're continuing to see sales tax revenues increasing over last year and I'm expecting to see that increase in the coming years."

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