The county’s auditor told commissioners on Nov. 19 that Monroe County is in its best financial position in several years.
Miller Edwards of Macon auditing firm Mauldin & Jenkins told Monroe County commissioners that the county had $39 million in revenues in 2018 while only spending $34.5 million for a surplus of $4.5 million, the county’s largest in a number of years. The excess in funds prevented commissioners from having to get a tax anticipation note (TAN), which is re-paid with about $50,000 in interest, for the first time since 2011.
“The county from a big picture perspective is doing pretty good,” Edwards said.
Edwards largely credited county finance officer Lorri Robinson, hired in August 2018, and county manager Jim Hedges, hired in October 2018, with Monroe County’s financial turnaround.
“Right now as a resident of your county, I feel good about where the county is going in light of these organizational changes,” Edwards said.
The audit showed Monroe County ended 2018 with about $135 million in assets, including roads, facilities, cash, receivables, etc., and $26 million in liabilities, including pension, bonds, notes payable, etc., for a net worth of about $109 million. The county also had $17 million in fund balance, including about $14 million in cash reserves, at the end of 2018, which Edwards said was enough to cover about six months. For 2018 alone, Monroe County earned $30 million in general fund revenues and spent $22 million in general fund expenses with another $5 million transferred out to off-set landfill, water and E-911 losses.
Edwards also lauded the county’s 86 percent funded pension plan, saying that percentage is much higher than many other governments his company audits.
“That’s awesome,” Edwards said. “That’s a great place to be.”
Edwards bemoaned continued losses of over $1 million in the water department and urged commissioners to raise water customer rates, which they did later in the same meeting. The county’s new water rates are intended to enable the county to break even in operational losses in 2020 with plans to continue raising rates in future years to off-set deprecation costs as well.
Edwards also pointed out some negative findings in the audit, saying many dealt with a lack of segregation of duties in some county departments, including the sheriff’s office, tax commissioner’s office, water department, magistrate court, probate court and superior court.
He said, “The same person doesn’t need to be the same one making deposits, writing checks, doing bank recs (reconciliations). We need to always make sure that we look at things and say, ‘Okay, we need to kind of break this up a little bit and let different people do different things.’”
Edwards also warned commissioners of the county’s need to stay on top of any computer system weaknesses that could lead to attacks from hackers. Commission chairman Greg Tapley told Edwards that new county information technology director Andra Howard has already solved some of the county’s computer system safety needs.
Edwards said it’s his job to warn commissioners of any financial weaknesses before they pose a major problem, adding, “My goal is to keep y’all (county leaders) out of the news.”