Despite the continued rancor in county government, there is at least one thing elected officials and staff in Kiowa can agree on: Elbert County's overall financial position has improved significantly over the past four years.
At a meeting of the board of county commissioners July 20, Kim Higgins, the county's engagement partner from Eide Bailly LLP, presented her firm's audit opinions on the county's 2015 financial statements.
Higgins opened her presentation by telling the commissioners that the county's financial statements continue to improve.
“To watch our clients get better is always something that we enjoy seeing,” Higgins told the BOCC. “You continue to add more information to your financial statements. It gives the reader more information about Elbert County.”
In addition to timely reporting for the third consecutive year, the county added several sections to the beginning of the Annual Financial Report, including a list and the terms of county officials and department heads, an organizational chart and a brief explanation of each of the county's funds.
Highlights of the financial statements: a significant increase in the county's overall cash by $1.8 million, tax revenues increased by $351,000 (due to reassessments), and a decrease in general fund spending by $103,000.
County Manager Ed Ehmann said he was very pleased with the progress the county has made over the last few years and credited the improvements to the hard work of the county staff.
One area of note is the continued trend of a declining net position resulting from depreciation, which means that on balance, the county's assets are gradually wearing out faster than they are being replaced.
The county's total capital assets declined from just more than $94 million at the end of 2009 to just more than $79.1 million at the end of 2015. The decline of $14.9 million over six years was a major driver of a decrease in the county's net position of $11.4 million during the same period.
While Higgins did not see the decline as an immediate problem, she advised the BOCC that with the annual process of identifying spending under control, the BOCC will need to address the more strategic challenge of declining assets and begin setting aside funds dedicated toward reinvestment.
“You need to begin… looking at a longer-term focus to be able to make sure you don't continue to be in the hole on your capital assets and depreciation. That's not going to be fixed in a year. It might not be fixed in 10 years,” she said.
The deadline for submitting annual audit report to the state auditor is July 31, and a copy of the report is posted on the county's website, www.elbertcounty-co.gov, under Government/Departments/Finance & Budget.