BLAIRSVILLE, Ga – Union County received a clean/unmodified opinion concerning its 2020 audit from Rushton and Company, a CPA firm.
Clay Pilgrim, CPA, CPE, CCF, delivered the information during the July County Commission meeting.
“I do have great news, this is real riveting information this audit, so I’m glad you joined us,” Pilgrim told the large crowd. He also thanked all county officials for their help.
The 2020 fiscal budget was amended down from $17,999,955 to $17,468,052 during the meeting as well.
The net position/ county equity covers three areas, net investments and capital assets, restricted net position, and unrestricted net position. The total net position for the county in 2020 was $57,418,192.
- Capital assets and net investments – $47,643,505 – examples: buildings, equipment
- Restricted net position – $5,456,656 – example: SPLOST
- Unrestricted net positions – $4,318,031 – example: residual
“For the year, there was an increase in net position, revenues exceeded expenses by $5,505,303. The largest reason for that increase was some operating grants and contributions that were received and sales tax increases as well with a lower expense increase overall,” Pilgrim stated.
In Union County’s General Fund also known as the operating budget, revenues increased 21 percent ($3,708,099) in 2020. Here’s the following breakdown of revenue increases:
- Property taxes – $181,943
- Title ad valorem – $543,158
- Intangible taxes – $174,580
- Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) – $922,524
- Intergovernmental revenues – $1,358,375
“[LOST increase] is a trend we’re seeing across the mountain areas of the state with sales tax. Folks moving this way or spending time up in the mountains with the pandemic that took place last year,” Pilgrim added.
The property tax line includes the last seven years of digest, any collections paid in 2020, and assessments.
Expenses for the county also increased by 4.7 percent ($777,040). The breakdown is as follows.
- General administration – $944,789 – the cost included capital outlay projects and the county reappraisal.
- Sheriff’s office – $297,845 – personal services
One area of expenditures decreased and that was highways and streets which were under by $583,708 also for personal services.
The unassigned fund balance or general fund equity will allow the county to operate for 2.7 months. The fund balance is $3,896,041. Last year, the fund balance was $1,805,929 and could only operate for 1.3 months.
Pilgrim explained that counties want to keep between two- or three months’ worth of monies in the fund balance in case of emergencies. In 2019, when the county increased property taxes by 17 percent on its side, Sole Commissioner Lamar Paris explained that the dip in the fund balance was part of the reason why.
SPLOST 5 went into effect in 2021 and thus far $51,780 has been expended on capital projects. The 2015 SPLOST or SPLOST 4 expended $6,210,663 in collected sales tax. SPLOST money can’t go into the general fund.
“It does typically reduce the need for other taxation,” Pilgrim commented because it goes toward capital projects.
However, SPLOST doesn’t go toward the operational costs. TSPLOST has a little more room concerning the operation of roads and bridges.
HIAWASSEE, Ga – Rushton and Associates gave the city of Hiawassee a clean or unmodified opinion for their 2020 audit. It’s the second year in a row that Hiawassee received this rating.
The 2020 audit showcased how city revenues dropped and expenditures increased for the year too. Revenues were down $55,012 (5.4 percent). Expenditures were up $73,922 (8.8 percent).
The following revenue areas decreased for the year:
- Motor Vehicle Tax – $49,779
- Franchise Tax – $12,447
- Intergovernmental Revenues – $56,457
However, four departments increased revenue:
- Property Tax – $13,360
- Local Option Sales Tax – $10,402
- Alcohol Beverage Tax – $6,296
- Fines, Fees, and Forfeitures – $24,352
On the expenditure side, the administration increased by $82,997 due to capital outlay.
The unassigned fund balance grew from 2019 to 2020 to $389,653 or 47.6 percent of expenditures. The city has 5.1 months of operating expenses on hand in case of emergencies. It’s recommended to keep at least three months of expenditures stored away.
In 2020 the city also paid off one loan in the amount of $697,996 and paid $287,585 in principle on other loans. Since 2017, they reduced the debt by 41 percent. Currently, $2,694,778 in debt is still outstanding.
Hiawassee received $47,000 in CARES Act Funding, $3,000GMA Safety Grant from LGRMS, $68,000 USDA Rural Development Grant for the Paris Building, $17,000 LMIG grant from GDOT, and $8,000 mural grant.
Water and Sewer
The water and sewer operating revenue grew by $279,015 (14.4 percent). $114,559 came from a payment made by the water treatment plant. According to Rushton and Associates CPA Chris Hollifield, the remaining amount, $164,456 came from revenue growth.
Operating expenses for 2020 increased by $69.352 (4.2 percent). From 2019 to 2020, operating income shot up by $209,663.
Water Treatment Plant
Revenue for the water treatment plant decreased by $12,211 (1.65 percent) and expenses increased by $192,110 (46.4 percent). The payment made to water and sewer accounted for the majority of the change. In 2019, the water treatment plant made $327,838 in income. In 2020, the plant’s income was $123,512.
Police Year in Review Report
In 2020, Hiawassee Police Department filed 274 reports, issued 308 warnings and 325 tickets. It made 75 arrests: 10 misdemeanor drug offenses, 18 felony drug offenses, 44 other misdemeanors, and 3 felonies.