State examiners report clean audit for county

Published 9:08 pm Wednesday, October 6, 2010

After a history of borrowing money and burdening deficit, Pike County received a pristine audit from the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts for the 2008-2009 fiscal year. The report also describes the county’s first surplus in 14 years.

According to information from the Pike County Commission, the county budget had climbed from $1 million in the hole to a surplus of $76,105.77 for 2008-2009.

“The hole was deeper than this at one time,” County Administrator Harry Sanders said.

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Thanks to controlled spending and increased revenues, the report gave no adverse findings and reported a trend of exponential growth.

Linda Barrontine, the Assistant Director for County Audits at the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts, explained that if there were no findings, the examiners didn’t find a flaw, legally speaking, in Pike County’s audit.

“When we say we have no findings, we noted no instances of noncompliance with state or federal laws applicable to the commission,” Barrotine said.

In other words, the commission passed its audit with flying colors.

“An audit is a test, but the results of those tests indicate they’re on track,” she said

The county has curbed its costs by reducing some payrolls and managing services that can vacuum funds—in one instance, the gasoline allotment for the road commission was retooled to save money.

While some costs have inevitably increased—health insurance, for example—Sanders said that careful budgeting and shopping around for deals on employee benefits, without sacrificing coverage, have kept costs to a minimum.

“The best thing you can do when you find yourself in a hole is quit digging,” Sanders said.

The county also has been saving its pennies. The commission has generated some revenue by sharing the 1-cent sales tax given to the county’s school systems.

With changes like these in place, the county is on an upward swing.

Debra Gibson, the commission’s chief financial officer, estimated a surplus of $380,000 to $410,000, give or take loose change, for the 2009-2010 year.

“This year we had a very clean audit,” she said.

Given the economic hardships of the country as a whole, the surplus could be a sign of prosperity in an otherwise grim climate, Sanders said.

“Our story is better than what it is in most places,” he said. “The taxpayers are getting more for their dollars.”

Though the future may look financially rosy, the key is to maintain growth and manage rising costs, Sanders said.

A tall order, but if the last decade is any indication, it’s not an impossible task for Troy.

“The challenges are not going to change,” Sanders said. “It’s a continuing effort.”