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County spent less, collected more than budgeted, audit says

Henderson County underspent its fiscal year 2012-13 budget and received more revenue than projected, an audit said.

Erica Brown, an audit manager with Martin Starnes of Hickory, said the county departments had done a good job of holding down spending and the county had managed a conservative budget.
"Would you send a copy of that to the federal government?" joked Commissioner Larry Young. The audit report came a few minutes after the board discussed problems the federal government shutdown is creating in the county.
The county's unassigned fund balance stands at $25.5 million — which is $12.35 million more than the board's policy of holding 12 percent of its general fund in reserves.
In January, County Manager Steve Wyatt said, the board will start the process of planning for future capital projects.
"This is the amount that's available to the board for appropriation," said county Finance Director Carey McLelland.
Standard & Poors has recently increased Henderson County's bond rating, McLelland said.
"For a county our size, that's a pretty big deal to have a double A rating," Wyatt said.
County officials say a medium-sized county generally does not receive a triple-A rating because its treasury is not big enough.
The availability of $12.35 million sets up what could be a lively debate among the board. During budget crafting last spring, Commissioner Grady Hawkins urged his colleagues to use some of the fund balance to lower the county tax rate by 1.4 cents per $100 valuation, to 50 cents per $100 valuation. The board defeated the proposal.
"I think our department heads and our manager need to be thanked because they're the ones that have worked hard," Commissioner Michael Edney said.
Expenses came in at $103.5 million — $5.54 million under budget. Revenue was $108.2 million — $5.45 million over budget. Higher than projected property tax and local option sales tax money accounted for the revenue gain, Brown said.

The county spent $5.2 million on capital projects in the fiscal year that ended on June 30 — including $2 million for the Boyd auto dealership property for expansion of the Hendersonville High School, $1.9 million to purchase and renovate the former Hendersonville Christian School campus, $811,000 for an emergency communications, $110,000 for the 911 center relocation and $324,000 for Jackson Park renovations.

The audit flagged a budgeting error caused when the county overpaid some fire departments.

"It was a miscalculation on my part of what fire districts were to be paid out at the end of the year," McLelland said. "To correct that I have fixed it in the current fiscal year to make sure they're not overpaid. They're always paid exactly what comes in. I corrected it in this year's budget so it won't happen going forward."

The fix, he said, assures that there was no net difference. "It was like prepaying some of their taxes that we'll collect this year," he said.