Sad stories of small business bankruptcies and urban cash depletion are all too common due to the pandemic, but Mount Airy’s financial condition has actually improved over the past two years.
This is proven by the latest annual independent audit of the city registers, which shows that in the case of a corporation, the municipality would be in the black and not in the red.
City officials warn, however, that observers shouldn’t read too much into the bottom line as it reflects unusual factors and the delay in spending that has been launched and will weigh on future budgets.
The most recent audit for fiscal year 2020-21 ending June 30 shows a major barometer of Mount Airy’s finances – the fund’s available balance – also known as its savings or surpluses – year over year.
It rose more than $ 1.5 million, according to an audit presentation at a meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners last week.
This is on top of a similar disclosure from the previous fiscal year 2019-20, when the fund’s available balance grew by nearly $ 1.7 million. This surplus fund is defined as money that is not restricted and can be used for any purpose.
It was around $ 12.6 million as of the end of June, up from $ 11 million a year earlier.
To put this in perspective, a state regulator, the Local Government Commission, recommends that a city hold an 8% surplus of its annual budget to meet the needs to run things for about a month with no income.
In the case of Mount Airy, its surplus would be enough to sustain the community for 12.5 months based on 2020-21 general fund spending of just over $ 11.7 million.
“So the city is doing pretty well in this area,” summed up Kelly Gooderham of Hickory’s Martin Starnes and Associates accounting firm, which has been auditing the city’s financial records since 2011.
Not your normal times
City council members seemed pleased with such results in the face of the coronavirus crisis, although Mayor Ron Niland indicated that the good performance is somewhat artificial.
“These numbers are based on some underlying factors – how we know that COVID and we are short on staff and are delaying expenses that we need to look at,” said Niland, recognizing the “good healthy report” at the same time. ” demonstrated.
He was referring to vacancies, for example in the Mount Airy Police Department, which saw savings in salaries and benefits, but posed problems with labor availability.
As a result, the total cost of the public safety category in the municipal budget, which includes both police and fire departments, decreased 7% from $ 5.3 million in fiscal 2019-20 to $ 4.9 million on June 30 ending year.
Total spend for 2020-21 decreased more than $ 575,000, or 5%, year over year, while revenue increased $ 335,000, or 2%.
The income picture was helped by the $ 149,000, or 2% t, increase in property tax revenue, which Gooderham said was due to increased property values. In addition to other exam highlights, sales tax revenue and ABC profit revenue also increased.
In response to a question from Commissioner Tom Koch, it was announced that the review period did not include any funds from the United States Rescue Plan Act (ARP) earmarked for the city government earlier this year.
Meanwhile, Mount Airy’s canal operations – a user fee-backed corporate fund and separate from its general fund – had a healthy year.
Net position moved up $ 2.6 million over the 2020-21 period, as audit numbers show, weighing factors such as cash flow from operations and debt servicing required.
City finance director Pam Stone said the situation in the water sewer system has been improved by having Mount Airy supplying all of Dobson’s water needs for three months of the year.
Commenting on the overall results of the audit, Interim City Manager Darren Lewis noted that despite the challenges, the community has benefited $ 1.5 million over the past fiscal year but is still looming.
He cited $ 642,000 in spending on unfinished and paid items for transferring and freezing 13 vacancies for part of the budget period.
“It’s been a great year again,” added Lewis. “But that won’t happen this year – we won’t have $ 1.5 million for good.”
Lewis mentioned that about $ 1.3 million of the available fund balance had already been committed by mid-fiscal year 2021-22.
It was allocated for Spencer’s redevelopment costs, downtown projects, and a new grapple valued at $ 185,000. The Surry Arts Council should also receive $ 400,000 for a new building. Lewis mentioned that needed vehicles such as fire trucks, dump trucks and leaf trucks will also have to be financed in the near future.
“Is it a clean audit and are there recommendations?” Commissioner Joe Zalescik asked.
“It was a clean test,” Gooderham replied. “Everything was good.” The examiner praised the thorough and straightforward work of Stone, the city’s chief financial officer.
No questionable costs were found, Gooderham said of the Martin Starnes and Associates review.
“We gave a clean, unchanged statement that is the best opinion we can give.”