Despite the coronavirus pandemic that hit many governmental entities hard last year, Orangeburg County’s general fund balance through the end of June 2021 was in a healthy position, according to the county’s auditing firm.
“The general fund has a healthy fund balance,” Charlotte Allen of WebsterRogers told Orangeburg County Council during a special called virtual meeting Thursday. “Best practice usually recommends that you keep at least two months’ worth of expenditures in your fund balance. That would be about a 16% or 17% fund balance.”
“You currently stand at 22%, which is, given the circumstances of the pandemic, a good thing,” Allen said. “With the economy the way it is, I would err on the side of having more rather than less of a fund balance.”
According to its 106-page financial audit, the county saw an increase of $1,178,180 in its general fund balance for the 2020-21 fiscal year. The increase helped raise the county’s year-end fund general fund balance to $9,214,784.
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About 90% of the county’s budget consists of its general fund.
Orangeburg County Administrator Harold Young said that when he arrived as administrator about a decade ago, the county’s fund balance was about $500,000.
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“That shows you how far we have come as far as adding to the fund balance and managing the financial whereabouts of the county,” Young said. “That is a good place to be. That puts us in a very healthy position.”
Council Vice Chair Janie Cooper-Smith said, “I applaud the county for having such a budget during the pandemic. We stayed above what many counties did not.”
Orangeburg County Council Chairman Johnnie Wright said his concern is always about the fund balance.
“That makes a difference if we run into some issues and we have to use something, we do have a fund balance,” Wright said. “That is a good feeling.”
“It is almost like having a household and when you don’t have nothing in the savings account and something comes up, you would be in trouble,” he said. “That is a big deal right there.”
While seeing an increase in its general fund balance, the county did see about a $4 million loss for the 2020-21 fiscal year, bringing its net position through June 2021 to $45,484,972, down from $49,489,879 at July 1, 2020.
The county’s total revenues for the 2020-21 fiscal year increased by 7.4% to about $90 million and its expenses increased to about $93.3 million.
Allen noted also the county received a clean or unmodified opinion, meaning that all its financial statements were accurate and a reliable indication of the county’s financial position.
Council unanimously received the audit report.
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Allen did highlight some challenges in last year’s budget.
The county’s special education fund and its roads and bridges fund lost money and have been suffering a recurring deficient, Allen said.
“Management is addressing that,” Allen said. “As council people, it needs to be on your radar as something that needs to be continually addressed and dealt with over time.”
Allen said the county’s special education fund collected about $2.7 million and spent about $3 million last year.
The fund is related to such entities as Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College, Orangeburg County Special Needs and Disabilities and the Orangeburg County Library.
The county’s roads and bridges funds also saw a loss of about $559,000, Allen said.
“During the budget process, we keyed on those deficits and starting managing those through cutting of the budget,” Young said. “Going forward now that we have the capital lift out of the way of building the library and several other things, we can start whittling down those deficits.”
Young also noted the county increased road and bridges fees, which will help reduce the deficient in that account.
The county’s governmental activities net position at the end of the year was $30,384,690; Its business type activities net position at year’s end was $15,100,282.
Governmental activities are services such as police, fire, public works, parks and recreation and general administration. Business-type activities include water and sewer service as well as broadband internet service, including user fees, cost of providing services and depreciation of capital assets.
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The county invested in new capital assets for the year of $14,404,644 for governmental activities and $1,334,733 for business-type activities, according to the audit.
The county issued long-term debt in governmental activities and business activities of $62,073,343, with repayments of long term of $35,668 debt,341 in governmental activities and $729,091 in business activities, according to the audit.
On another note, the county’s receipt and turning in of the audit’s financial statement will satisfy the state’s request for the information.
The South Carolina Treasurer’s Office earlier this year announced it was withholding about $17 million from the county due to its not meeting the state’s Jan. 1 legal deadline to report financial statements.
The Comptroller’s General Office said $17,023,717.71 was being withheld from the county and would not release until the office receives the county’s 2021 fiscal year audited financial statements.
The state’s Treasurer’s Office can withhold funding set for distribution to a county until the county turns in its financial audits.
State officials say reporting on time helps county councils set their budgets and keeps government operations transparent to the public. Without the state’s deadline, there might be no accountability.
The turning in of the financial statements will mean the county will receive the monies.
The $17 million, if received by the county within the next 60 days, will be added as revenue to this year’s — 2021-22 — budget.
“It will be accounts receivable but it will be a revenue for us,” County Comptroller Gary Cooke said.
Allen did note the county will receive a single audit on its internal controls over financial reporting in about the next month but that the financial statements were prioritized to meet state requirements.
“We segregated that part of the engagement because it was essential to get you your financial statements as quickly as possible,” “There will be a report on our consideration of your internal control over financial reporting. There will be a separate report.”
“They (the state) want the financial statement,” Allen said. “They are not particularly interested in the right yet in the single audit report.”
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“We are prayerful that next year will not be as long and that we will be able to get our stuff in on time,” Wright said. “The general public, sometimes they hear certain things and they blame council. When they hear that money is being withheld, they feel like we are losing money. That is not the case. We just hope we will be able to get it on time next year.”
“We are moving in the right direction,” Young said. “We changed financial systems and put things in place to safeguard this to try to get us forward and get us back on track with it being on time.”
Young said during the pandemic, he along with the treasurer, comptroller and auditor all had COVID during the auditing process, which “was a big part of holding it up.”
“We are moving past that and we are still functioning,” Young said.
Wright requested Allen provide council members specific page numbers of the audit that would be important to review and encouraged council members to review the audit. He also said a meeting could be held in the future to go over the audit with council members.
In other matters, council went into closed session to discuss a contractual matter related to The MAX Family Entertainment Center. The entertainment center is located at 1015 Red Bank Road off US Highway 601 near Interstate 26.