The upcoming election raises many questions about the current Scotland County Board of Commissioners (incumbents) ability to manage the County’s financial resources (our tax dollars). The Local Government Commission for the last three years has warned Scotland County about over budgeting tax revenues, poor property tax collection and using fund balance for reoccurring costs. In a letter to the commissioners dated January 25, 2012, “the State and Local Government Finance Division in its role as staff the Local Government Commission has analyzed the audited financial statements of Scotland County for fiscal year ending June 30, 2011. The County has serious financial problems which the county’s governing board must address immediately.”
The Local Government Commission is now monitoring Scotland County’s finances on a regular basis to insure that the fund balance does not continue to decrease. After hearing much talk and having seen considerable data concerning the financial state of the county, I am compelled to relay some of the statistics that measure the financial health of Scotland County. The numbers reflect the last three years for brevity.
Item #1—Sales Tax-Budgeted totals exceeded actual totals by ( $1,847,814). There was a small surplus in 2009 of $187,297, shortfalls in 2010 ($1,107,016) and 2011 ($928,095). The board and county manager‘s budgeted shortfall concerning sales taxes impact the budget deficit and fund balance loss.
Item#2—-Property Taxes—-Budgeted totals exceeds actual totals by ($2,950,882). 2009 ($452,489), 2010 ($1,394,227), 2011 ($1,104,166). These are substantial shortfalls.
Item #3—Property Tax Collection Rate—Budgeted totals exceed actual totals ($8,759,245) which represents a collection rate of between 92% &93%, the state collection rate is between 97% & 98%. 2009 ($896,154), 2010 ($4,130,424), 2011 ($3,732,657) these numbers represent severe shortfalls to the budgeted totals. Monies that the board thought would be there.
Item#4—Budgeting and Spending Fund Balance to Balance the Budget. This process is rarely discussed. After miscalculating budgets additional funds had to be budgeted in order to balance the budget. This accounted for $6,791,231 in losses and reduction of fund balance. This has had serious impact on the deficit.
Item#5—-There is no line item in the 2012 budget reserved for fund balance replenishment.
The above numbers excluding item#5 are available: www.nctreasurer.com/lgc/units/D_82.htm
Some incumbents have been quoted in the paper and have been heard at campaign events saying the financial situation is not that dire, that we have $14 million in the bank. This may be true, but it is also true that most of this money is already encumbered. This money is obligated to pay bills and operate the county (ex: county services such as Law Enforcement, Emergency Services, Health Dept., DSS, Park & Recreation, School System and the required fund balance.)
The Commissioners’ budgeting numbers for expenditures (the amount budgeted to operate the individual departments for the last 3 years) has been successful with a three year total in savings of $6.7 million dollars. Department heads and supervisors have been frugal with monies budgeted to them.
The 2012 budget was cut $4.5 million including a 2.5% pay cut across the board, reduced 410k contributions, and elimination of longevity pay. Would this have had to happen had the board been managing properly since 2009? Does anyone think there might be an over employment issue within the county? Instead of cutting everyone, consideration should be made not to cut remuneration but some actual jobs that aren’t needed and low performers. This action hurts everyone.
One might raise many questions. Why were warnings from Local Government Commission not taken seriously for 3 years? How could budgeted totals be so far off from actual totals for 3 consecutive years? Why is there any reason to believe that after 3 years of failure the current group on the board will somehow have great revelations that can turn this situation around? Most residents don’t keep up with politics but for those who do this discussion raises to many questions to be ask here. I hope many will think about a new direction for our county. The same old same old means we will get the same old excuses.
It has been a struggle to be a businessperson in the last few years. I challenge everyone to ask a businessperson in this community about their businesses. We all want our county to be financially stable and to grow. The business of business is where our tax monies come from and taxes are what funds the government and we should expect our local government to be prudent with our tax dollars. We have a chance at new leadership this year so ask questions and think about how our tax dollars have been being spent the last few years.
Riggins is a Laurinburg businessman.