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Report: county thrifty in spending, ahead in revenue

Henderson County commissioners got news Monday that went against the general perception of government: the county was thrifty in spending and efficient in collecting taxes in the budget year that ended on June 30.

The result? Revenues exceeded expenses by $7.45 million and the county has socked away a fund balance of $26.8 million, more than a quarter of the total budget.
"A job well done on everybody's part," chairman Tommy Thompson said after a budget presentation by Finance Director Carey McLelland.
The unaudited numbers from the year-end financial update showed that county departments across the board came in below budget, in some cases by a point or two and in a few by 25 percent. The register of deeds office spent 59.4 percent of its budget, for instance, and the emergency management spent 75.2 percent of its allocated number. Other frugal departments that spent less than 80 percent of their allocation were forestry services (71.8 percent), code enforcement (77.4 percent), elections (75.2 percent), property addressing (78.3 percent), soil and water conservation (76.5 percent), code enforcement (77.4 percent) and Department of Social Services general assistance (70.7 percent)
"We had about a 6.8 percent savings in the operational cost for county government," County Manager Steve Wyatt told the commissioners. "The board basically sets that ceiling and what we try to do through the year is come in under that."
On the revenue side, all categories but some special taxes and licenses and restricted intergovernmental came in at 100 percent of projection or better, including current year property taxes at 100.1 percent, past year property collections at 121.4 percent, local option sales tax at 105.4 percent and investment earnings at 226 percent — $621,446 versus a projected $275,000.
Both the county schools and Blue Ridge Community College spent 100 percent of the amount allocated to them.
Overall, general fund spending of $104 million amounted to 95.2 percent of the budget of $109.5 million.
The fund balance total of $26.8 million stands at 25.73 percent of the budget, or $14.3 million more than the county policy of 12 percent, which would be $14.3 million, McLelland said.
Wyatt said the county had low-balled sales tax revenue when the recession caused collections to plunge. The county received a boost there of $862,847 more than the projected number.
"Two years ago we backed off our sales tax number," Wyatt said. "I remember when Commissioner Young said if I'm going to be surprised I want it to be a good surprise, so we got a good surprise. We've been able to improve the county's cash position by about $2½ million fiscal year to fiscal year, and I can tell you that's an outstanding accomplishment."
Young and Commissioner Charlie Messer also praised the county manager, finance director and department heads for the budget numbers.