County commissioners hope to invest more money in road projects next fiscal year after the Smith County received a clean bill of financial health Tuesday from an independent accounting firm.
An annual comprehensive financial audit showed total revenues up more than $1 million and expenses down $2.5 million, which helped translate in a $4.3 million increase in net assets over 2012.
The county reduced debt obligations by more than $3 million, to $33.5 million, in 2013.
The county’s fund balance exceeded $21.6 million, or 38 percent of the county’s general fund expenditures. The court-implemented policy for its reserve fund is 17 percent. The county also maintained its AA-plus Standard and Poor’s bond rating.
Tal Glenn, of Henry and Peters accounting firm, made the presentation to commissioners.
“I really don’t have anything to report on the negative side,” he said.
Commissioners’ shared consensus was the strong financial standing will allow them flexibility when it comes to initiating county road projects during the next budget process.
In 2010, the county entered “maintenance mode,” which includes patching roads, cleaning bar ditches and mowing rather than major road projects due to revenue decreases.
Now that the economy has improved, commissioners are expecting to put cash toward projects and implement an expected long-term road plan with community direction and support.
County Commissioner Jeff Warr said the clean audit and the positive report make it clear tough decisions made in 2010 regarding expenditures were correct and expects the court will address county roads as a top priority.
“The decisions helped with cash flow, and we carry very little debt for a county our size. So overall it reflects well on Smith County and gives us flexibility going into the next budget,” he said.
Commissioners Terry Phillips and Cary Nix agreed. They said the county’s financial standing puts it in position to address deferred infrastructure projects.
They expect the cash reserve will be a good place to begin paying for major rebuilds, though at more than $120,000 per mile for asphalt projects, millions of dollars won’t go far.
Smith County recently was awarded the Texas Comptroller’s Office “platinum” designation in the Texas Comptroller Leadership Circle, the newest and highest level of transparency recognized by the state. The county was among 10 recipients among 254 counties statewide.
Commissioner JoAnn Hampton said she was pleased with the outcome of the audit and praised the county auditor’s department and staff for their work throughout the process and oversight of annual revenues and expenditures.
“They’re the best,” she said. “They keep us on our game.”