The county was going to borrow the money but couldn’t since it doesn’t own the pipeline. Instead, it used $1 million in surplus funds, $422,000 from an economic-development reserve fund and $30,000 from 2013 contingency funds.
The audit said those unbudgeted expenses “will have a significant impact on the general fund’s financial condition at the end of 2013.”
The state also found fault with the county’s lack of long-term plans for its finances and priorities.
If such plans were in place, legislators could have made better decisions, “which may have prevented the county’s declining fiscal health,” the audit said.
If a plan isn’t developed, it could mean “further depletion of the county’s fund balance, continued cash-flow shortage and a reliance on short-term debt and undesirable constraints on the county’s financial flexibility in future years.”
Leitz told the Press-Republican that some of the recommendations are already being addressed, such as formation of an Auditing Committee to look at shortcomings indicated by the current and previous audits performed by the county’s independent auditor.
And he said he tracks information for a five-year forecast of expenses that is used as part of budget development.
But, at the same time, “the local economy is not thriving, and every dollar added to residents’ taxes results in a long-term negative impact,” Leitz said.
Finding an alternative revenue source to property taxes to fund the government is a priority, “and a number of legislators believe the bed tax will produce an increase in sales tax,” he said.
Franklin County was not successful this year when to sought permission from the State Legislature to create a 5 percent occupancy tax on all overnight guests. The plan had been for the money collected from the fees to go specifically toward tourism so property-tax dollars that now pay for such activities can be directed elsewhere.
Legislators have said they intend to reintroduce a resolution for creation of an occupancy tax when a new State Legislature convenes in January.
Email Denise A. Raymo:firstname.lastname@example.org