County audit report: Clean

During a regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, May 15, Norm Newell, representing the firm of Smith and Newell Certified Public Accountants, gave the Colusa County Board of Supervisors a summary of the recent annual financial audit of Colusa County. He told the board that his firm had issued a clean, unmodified opinion of the county’s financial statements in the 2016-17 Fiscal Year.

“As a result of our works and all the procedures that we put the county through, we were able to issue an unmodified opinion,” Newell said. “That’s the best opinion that an auditor can issue on a set of financial statements. Everything of financial significance about the county has been presented in those financial statements. It does not say the county is in great financial position or not great position; it just means that you can rely on those numbers.”

Newell called attention to a few items in the report, including the county’s pension liability. He said that as of June 30, 2017, the county’s pension liability was about $56.6 million – up 20 percent from the year prior.

“One thing to keep in mind is that the number of covered employees is up about 5 percent for miscellaneous people and up for safety people – I believe it’s up about 11 percent,” Newell said. “You also have to kind of keep that in mind, that you’ve got more employees, which is also causing that liability to go up. But it’s also increasing for everybody – I tell everyone about this, to watch this number.”

Newell also referenced the county’s “Other Post-Employment Benefits” (OPEB) liability – or the health insurance for retired employees. Newell said that the county’s OPEB liability was $5.3 million, up from $4.4 million the year prior – an increase of 19 percent. According to his report, the total County net OPEB obligation represents 7.2% of the total liabilities.
County Auditor-Controller Peggy Hickel Scroggins interjected, stating that the reason the county had such a large liability there was because they did not have an irrevocable trust yet; Scroggins said that the county has money on deposit that would fully take care of that liability.

As for the county’s General Fund – the primary operating fund of the county – Newell said that it had a total fund balance of about $19 million. The unrestricted portion of the fund balance was about $16 million, up $1.1 million from 2015-16.

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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