County receives clean audit

Colusa County’s annual independent audit for the 2015-16 fiscal year came back clean, according to a presentation last week by the county’s independent auditor.

“After we completed our work and our testing and verification of account balances, we were able to issue what is called a clean, unmodified opinion. What that means is that everything of financial significance about the county has been presented in these financial statements,” said Norm Newell of Smith & Newell CPAs. “It doesn’t mean the county is in excellent financial condition or poor financial condition – it just means the numbers are materially correct. You can rely on those numbers.”

Newell went into detail on a number of different areas of the audit, which covered the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016.

The county’s total net position – or the difference between its assets and liabilities – came out to about $46 million.

The county’s total liabilities amounted to $61 million. The vast majority of that number came from net pension liability – $50 million – with an additional $4.4 million coming from “other post-retirement benefits” or OPEB.

“That is an additional 15 percent higher than last year,” Newell said of the increase in net pension liability. “That is a tough one. It’s a number that is increasing significantly for everybody, and it’s something everybody needs to be aware of, because it is a cost.”

Newell explained that the net pension liability was the amount that the county would have to spend to pay off all of their pensions “in one pop” and not an annual liability.

The OPEB obligation is mostly health insurance for retirees, Newell said.

“When this thing was implemented, about 10 years ago, everybody kicked and screamed and said that they can’t put that whole liability on the financial statements. They allowed all of those government agencies to amortize that over 30 years,” Newell said.

This current fiscal year (2017-18), Colusa County will have an additional $10 million come onto the books as a liability under OPEB, Newell explained.

Total government revenues for Colusa County were roughly $53 million.

Of that, about $17 million in revenue came from property taxes, $4.7 million came from charges for services, and $26 million from operating grants and contributions.

Total government expenses were about $50 million.

General fund expenditures totaled $24 million.

At June 30, 2016, the county general fund balance was about $17.5 million, with about $15.5 million designated as unrestricted, according to the audit. The prior fiscal year, the general fund balance was about $15 million.

Revenue coming into the general fund amounted to $27 million, while expenditures were $24.6 million.

The general fund pays for the traditional functions of county government, including general government functions, public safety, public assistance, education, recreation and culture, debt service, and capital outlay. Public protection was the greatest expense coming out of the general fund at just under $17 million. General government expenses totaled $4.7 million, and education expenses totaled $1.4 million.

Debt service expenditures totaled $486,000, and expenditures on capital overlay came out to $1.1 million.

“I want to compliment the staff in the county. Whenever we needed information, the were more than willing to always dig it out, no matter how tough it was… They’re good to work with,” Newell said.

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Brian Pearson is the Managing Editor & Reporter for the Williams Pioneer Review. Brian joined the Williams Pioneer Review in June 2016 and is committed to bringing hyperlocal news to its readers. A few of his projects include reporting on local government and the newly feature sports page. To contact Brian about this article, or for future articles, please email him at brian@colusacountynews.net