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Mecklenburg County gets clean bill of health, financially
SoVaNow.com / February 12, 2014Robin Jones with the accounting firm of Creedle Jones & Alga presented the results of Mecklenburg County’s financial audit for fiscal year 2013 at the February meeting of the Board of Supervisors on Monday.
“It is a clean audit with no findings,” said Jones.
The county, which has a fund balance of $27 million, “is in very good shape” financially, Jones said. But she quickly noted that only $2.8 million of the fund balance is “unrestricted,” meaning it can be spent however the Board of Supervisors deems appropriate.
Jones also praised the county for incurring no new debt in the 2013 budget year, saying “for a county of this size, you do very well without a whole lot of debt.”
She cautioned supervisors to continue their current fiscal practices because starting next year, Mecklenburg County’s financial health will diminish, at least on paper, from unfunded pension liabilities. “This is a nationwide situation,” Jones said, adding that for now, it does not appear as though the county’s bond rating — and its ability to borrow money at low interest rates — will be affected.
County Administrator Wayne Carter said he is still waiting for accurate numbers from the state of Virginia to determine the county’s share of unfunded pension liabilities.
Currently, the pension liability on local government balance sheets reflects the difference between the contributions they are required to make to a pension plan in a given year versus what they actually funded. Under new accounting rules, counties must report pension costs and obligations as employees earn them, not when the government contributes to a pension plan or when retirees receive their benefits.
This is an accounting change only, according to Jones, that has nothing to do with the way a pension plan is funded or the amount funded.
The Government Accounting Standards Board and the American Institute of CPA’s supported these new reporting requirements, claiming the new standards provide a clearer picture of each locality’s pension obligations and its impact on that government’s finances.
In other board matters Monday, Mecklenburg County Sheriff Bobby Hawkins issued his department’s annual report. “Comparing 2013 with our numbers from 2012 there was no significant increase in reported sex crimes, larcenies, motor vehicle thefts, and vandalisms.” Hawkins reported. However, “there was an increase in murders.”
Hawkins attributed the minor uptick in robberies and property crimes to “the downturn of the economy and unemployment.”
Deputies responded to 28,220 calls for service during the year. Of those, nearly 900 were reports of criminal offense, including kidnapping, rape, robberies, assaults and sex crimes.
Investigations resulted in slightly more than 1,100 arrests in 2013, 475 of which were felony arrests. Hawkins noted that the department’s “clearance rate” of active cases is up 10 percent from two years ago.
The Sheriff’s office is responsible for processing and performing criminal history checks for all concealed weapon permit applications received from the Circuit Court. In 2013 the Sheriff’s Office processed “an astounding 976 concealed weapon permits,” Hawkins reported.
In other business, supervisors approved the issuance of a special exception permit to Clear Signal Towers of Richmond for the construction of a 199-foot wireless communications tower on the property of James and Elizabeth Nutter at 13909 Highway 58 near Wilkerson Road. Company representatives assured supervisors that they “are in discussions with [the County’s] 911 [service] to put their equipment on our tower. We are happy to do that.” Supervisor Dan Tanner noted that the company had no choice since “that is a zoning requirement.”
Supervisor Bill Blalock, Landfill committee chairman, asked the county administrator to explain proposed carbon credits for the county landfill before asking the Board of Supervisors to decide whether to sell the credits now or hold them until the price of credits increase. Supervisors agreed to hold the credits for now.
Carter said, “We received a grant to install a methane collection system at the landfill since methane is 21 times more dangerous to the ozone than carbon dioxide. We receive credits for the methane we burn, and can sell them to places that need to purchase carbon credits before they can get permits through [Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality] DEQ.”
When the county first installed its methane collection system, carbon credits were selling for $7 each. Today the price of a credit is $1.
Mecklenburg pays just under $21,000 each year for a specialist to collect the data needed to verify their carbon credits.
Carter said, “right now if we sold these credits, the county will lose between $3,000 and $4,000. But if carbon credits increase to $2 each, the county will break even.
Supervisors asked Carter to try to find a less expensive company to clean and fill with foam a 10,000 gallon fuel tank currently in the ground at Buckhorn Elementary School. Carter said state regulations call for the tank “to be closed” and Environmental Management Service is the only company in the area qualified to perform the work. They quoted a price of $11,200, which includes testing the soil around the tank to insure the ground is free of contaminants.
Blalock said the price was too high and asked Carter to research alternatives. Carter agreed.
The lack of available parking at the Hudgins Courthouse prompted Supervisors to instruct Carter to investigate ways to expand the existing parking facilities at that site. One solution is to install new parking on the County owned property to the north and west of the existing parking lots.
During Board member comments, chairman Glenn Barbour expressed concern about the US Army Corps of Engineers’ “moratorium” on new boat docks for the next 15 to 18 months will negatively impact real estate sales in the area. Supervisor Jim Jennings agreed saying he did not understand why the Corps would not allow for permit issuances to continue in accordance with the existing plan, during the review.
Carter said, it was his understanding that the moratorium was done to foreclose the Corps having to process a flood of new permit requests and was limited to those with no existing docks, buoys or permits.
Harrison Inge was reappointed to the Board of Building Code Appeals, and Jarrious Lassister was reappointed to the County Planning Commission.
Supervisors Dan Tanner asked the Board to issue a resolution thanking SVCC President Dr. John Caven for service to the College and Community. Caven is retiring at the end of the current school year.
Tanner also reminded residents that the County’s burning law goes into effect on Saturday, Feb. 15.
Supervisor Andy Hargrove asked Supervisors to pass a resolution noting that April is child abuse month.
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