ELLIJAY, Ga. – Receiving their Audit Report, Gilmer County saw a generally good audit, with most portions finding no deficiencies and the company delivering a “clean, unmodified opinion.”
According to the Rushton audit report, the county’s general Audit Opinion Letter reported as clean and unmodified, meaning that the company’s opinion is that financial statements were fairly stated and had no issue.
Delving into the audit and breaking down the county’s position saw several different points of financial interest along with comments on one area.
Despite the COVID Outbreaks and issues, the audit reveals increases in the county’s unrestricted funds showcasing that even though the virus and issues occurred, Gilmer saw an increase in spending and in areas like the Hotel/Motel Tax.
Gilmer already noticed the trend last year as research done on the SPLOST Tax during the COVID outbreak showed surprising increases in June and July of 2020. This was surprising because the county halted capital spending earlier in 2020 and many locals saw businesses closing due to the virus. However, those that did stay open saw an influx of people. Many attributed the influx to visitors to the county attempting to flee the major cities during the worst parts of the the COVID shutdown.
There were increases in costs according to the audit, some of the larger ones came through Fire and Road Departments, but saw slight decreases in other areas like the Detention Center.
According to Chris Hollifield, who presented the Audit Report on behalf of Rushton, the county increased in “unassigned fund balance” from $6.3 million to $10.2 million. Hollifield said, “That’s about 5.5 months of our expenditures for 2020. So, when you think about the health of the county, where should we be? We expect to be three to four months minimum… We have those ‘reserves,’ if you will, to carry forward to the next year’s budget.”
These reserves have been brought up in Audits over the years as important items. Auditors relayed that they registered the balance by months of expenditures because they saw that if something dire happened and no revenue comes in, then the county could cover its costs for the stated number of months.
Hollifield said the county has done a good job getting to this point as he could remember in the past when the county could not achieve that reserve.
The audit also noted that the county received support in its funding. Some of the funding for expenditures and capital outlays came through the CARES Act funds.
With another letter on internal control matters, laws compliance, grants and debts agreements. The audit report noted five deficiencies and two non-compliance including one overbudget and timing on payouts. The comments seemed to revolve around deposits’ timing. Though Hollifield noted that some considerations could be made for COVID delaying certain things, they noted that deposits were not made weekly like they, the audit company, would have liked to seen.
The Audit also noted no findings or issues in the handling of government funding like in the CARES Act. As the county handled the governement funds and they exceeded $750,000, Hollifield said this isn’t a usual report for the county, but was required specifically because the total amount of funding exceeded that limit.