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County gets clean opinion in annual audit
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Hall County received a clean bill of health in its annual financial audit released Thursday.

The “clean opinion” issued by Bates, Carter & Co. LLP, a Gainesville firm, marks the second year in a row that no significant deficiencies were found.

Described as “very serious in nature,” accounting deficiencies in a grant-funded housing program operated by Hall County were revealed in a 2014 fiscal year audit.

The findings caused county officials to miss a deadline to submit that audit to the state after problems with the Neighborhood Stabilization Program were discovered.

According to the audit report, a lack of internal controls and compliance has caused the NSP to run millions of dollars in deficits.

But the 2016 fiscal year audit has shown that these problems were remedied.

Though revenues decreased by $1.7 million in the last fiscal year, which ended June 30, from the prior year, overall expenditures remained within the final approved budget.

Revenue from the emergency management system accounted for the biggest drop. But increases in local option sales tax and property tax revenue of $665,000 and $196,000, respectively, helped offset some of the overall losses.

Expenditures increased $1.4 million from the previous year, were over the budgeted amount by $2.1 million, and the county used just $1.9 million in reserve funds to balance its budget.

The county still has more than $21 million in reserves left over.

Special purpose local option sales tax revenues, which support road construction, building development and other capital items, increased by $893,000 year-over-year to reach $29.9 million.

The county’s long-term debt is $2.5 million, most of which is tied to business park development bonds and capital leases for EMS and the Sheriff’s Office.

Other post-employment benefits, such as pensions for retired employees, now top $61 million.

It is recommended that the county pay out about $4.1 million annually to meet these growing costs, but is not a requirement by law. The county paid out $1.2 million in retiree claims in the last fiscal year.

Hall County audit
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