Good news. With the completion of the 2018 annual internal audit commissioned by the Columbia County Board of Supervisors, we have learned that — for the sixth consecutive year — the county has shown a budget surplus.

When all was said and done, the year 2018 surplus amounted to $.5 million, which brings the surplus in general fund balance since 2013 to $4.8 million.

The good news to county taxpayers is that surpluses eventually turn into cash. Because of that, the county is able to use that toward keeping taxes as low as possible and otherwise alleviating some of the burden on taxpayers, while at the same time maintaining the quality of programs and services that residents have come to expect.

Further, we have been able to accomplish this without instituting layoffs among our workforce. This allows for staff continuity, an important factor in strong overall productivity and excellence.

As an added example of that quality of work, for the second year in a row the audit concluded with zero adjustments, something that can be attributed to the fine work of the controller’s and treasurer’s office staff.

At the end of 2018, the total general fund balance stood at approximately $18.9 million.

The county’s stated financial goal is to maintain at least a $10 million cash balance. Currently, the cash fund balance — between restricted and unrestricted funds — stands at $10.4 million. It’s important to note that the $18.9 million is not one big pile of cash, but instead includes assets and receivables and other items.

While that may sound like an enormous amount of money, given the amount of the overall county budget at nearly $160 million, it is critical to solid financial management to maintain a good surplus to handle the ebbs and flows of the budget year.

In a bit of a deeper dive regarding the audit, the county is divided into three kinds of activities when it comes to net position and the statement of activities:

1) Governmental activities. Most of the county’s basic services are reported here, including public safety, public works, economic assistance, health, parks, and general support. Property taxes, sales taxes, franchise fees, and state and federal grants finance most of these activities.

2) Business-type activities. The county charges fees to customers to help cover all or most of the costs of certain services it provides.

3) Component units. The county includes five separate legal entities in its report: the Columbia County Soil and Water Conservation District; the Columbia County Industrial Development Agency; the Columbia Economic Development Corporation; the Columbia Capital Resource Corporation; and the Columbia Tobacco Asset Securitization Corporation (CTASC). Although legally separate, these “component units” are important because the County is financially accountable for them

For further information on this audit, please contact the Columbia County County Treasurers Office, 15 North Sixth St., Hudson; 518-828-0513.

Reach Matt Murell at matt.murell@columbiacountyny.com.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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