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County is ‘financially stable’

As audit season quickly approaches, Archuleta County staff is working to close the financial books on 2011.

On the heels of closing the portions of the year’s finances, Finance Director Diane Sorensen presented the 2011 governmental funds financial statements to the Board of County Commissioners in a special meeting Tuesday afternoon, showing a county that continues to rebound from its financial crisis in 2007, despite a rough economy.

The 2011 numbers were compared to 2010 and 2009 during the presentation to show the increasing financial health of the county.

This week’s article includes information related to the county’s General Fund. Future coverage will look at the Road and Bridge, Fleet and Solid Waste Funds.

General Fund

First up in Sorensen’s presentation was the General Fund balance sheet, which shows the total assets of the General Fund, as well as the fund balance stored up and, “tells a story,” Sorensen said.

In 2011, the county’s total assets in the fund ended at $11,220,062 — approximately $1 million or 9.8 percent higher than in 2010. In 2009, the fund ended with a balance of 8,056,918.

The majority of the increase, Sorensen said, is due to an increase in cash — over $5 million, which is nearly $2 million higher than in 2010 and over $4 million higher than in 2009.

However, the property taxes receivable line decreased compared to the prior two years due to the elimination of 1A funds in 2012, Sorensen explained.

The General Fund also received less from other governments (capital grants) in 2011 than in prior years.

Inventories listed on the General Fund balance sheet also took a hit from just over $80,000 to just under $4,000 because those inventories were transferred to the new Fleet Fund.

On the balance sheet, $100,000 remains due from the Solid Waste Fund, which took a loan from the General Fund in 2009, but has been unable to repay the loan thus far.

Overall, the county’s fund balance in the General Fund has increased about $1.9 million over 2010 and sits at $5,328,156.

“This is significant and a positive result of the county’s conscientious cuts,” on the year, Sorensen said, adding that the fund balance ensures a stable cash flow and provides financial stability for the county.

That amount also includes a committed fund reserve of $2,780,600 — meant to be a reserve of at least three-months’ operating expenses for the county per a county resolution. The amount reserved is equal to that target amount, Sorensen said.

As far as revenues in the General Fund, 2011 saw a decrease of $770,000 or six percent.

Half of that decline is from sales tax, Sorensen said, reminding those in attendance of the $2 million in sales tax that the county was paid by the state in 2010.

The other significant decrease, Sorensen explained, is related to 2010 capital grants that did not continue in 2011.

Sorensen also provided the ratio of own source of revenue to total revenues — a ratio Sorensen said helps indicate the extent of the county’s fiscal self-reliance.

A high ratio, Sorensen said, is viewed as positive. Own sources of revenue for the county include property tax, sales tax, charges for services, and licenses and fees.

In 2009, that ratio was 75; in 2009 it jumped to 85; and in 2011 it dropped to 80 — a number Sorensen is still pleased with.

Sorensen also looked at the ratio of General Fund expenditures per capita. That ratio was at 786 in 2011, down from 888 in 2010 and 875 in 2009.

Sorensen noted that a high ratio may indicate inefficiencies or that cost of services may eventually exceed the residents’ ability to pay for services, but emphasized the “may.”

In addressing questions from the commissioners, Sorensen said, “By itself, any ratio doesn’t carry much weight,” adding that the county has set no benchmarks with which to compare the ratios.

Overall, expenditures in the fund decreased about $1.2 million or 11 percent in 2011. The largest decreases are in capital outlay and general government function, Sorensen said.

The decrease in capital outlay, Sorensen explained, is the result of the purchase of the county’s 95-acre parcel located adjacent to U.S. 84.

While the property is being paid for through the Conservation Trust Fund (lottery proceeds given to the county to be spent on parks and recreation), the purchase of the land in 2010 was recorded in the General Fund as a pass-through transaction.

The other significant increase, of $344,600, came from personnel costs. Eleven full-time equivalents (FTEs) were eliminated from the General Fund in 2011, with a salary savings of $283,000 and a benefit savings of $61,600.

Following the presentation, Sorensen told the commissioners that the fund was one of the most fragile she had ever seen when she began with the county in 2009, but that the fund has made a drastic turnaround.

“The General Fund has now made this county financially stable and you should be proud,” Sorensen said, adding that the challenge now is to not spend that money.

Personnel comparison

Sorensen also presented a comparison of salaries, benefits and employees between 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Between all the county’s funds, the county decreased by 12 FTEs in 2011 compared to 2010. Compared to 2009, the county is smaller by 14 FTEs.

The decrease of 12 FTEs from 2010 equates to a salary savings of $327,000 and benefit savings of $67,200.

The decrease in FTEs from 2009 to 2010 saved the county $82,500.

The total FTE counts include part-time employees and are taken from June 1 of each year.

randi@pagosasun.com

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