County's finances 'wonderful,' leaders told

Dec 26, 2013 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Fremont County netted $1.3 million in fiscal year 2013.

Financial reports released at year's end show Fremont County is in a "wonderful financial opinion," according to deputy county treasurer Jim Massman.

The county gained $1.3 million in fiscal year 2013, July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2013, when its revenues were $32.9 million and expenses were $31.6 million. That increase brought the county's net position, its assets of the county minus its liabilities, to $131.8 million.

"The county is financially sound, and we've got good internal controls and good management of the county finances," Fremont County Treasurer Scott Harnsberger said.

Gains last year continued a trend from two years ago, when the county's net position increased by $1.1 million. The $32.9 million in revenue was down $500,0000 from the $33.4 million in income seen in fiscal year 2012. Expenses were also down, however, from $32.3 two years ago to $31.6 last year, a difference of $700,000.

Making up the net position were $26.5 million in cash and investments, plus $105.6 million in capital assets, such as roads and bridges, and $5.0 million of other assets, such as anticipated property taxes, minus $5.2 million of liabilities, such as debt.

"We don't have any long term debt to speak of," Massman said. "We have money in the bank."

Aside from the Solid Waste Disposal District, Fremont County has only $334,000 in long-term liabilities. Solid waste has a liability of $7.3 million for closure and post-closure care costs of landfills and $493,000 more in liabilities for long-term leases.

Harnsberger thought there were no negative findings the county did not expect.

"(There is) not anything that we don't know about," he said. "We're always concerned with the resources to provide the money to operate, but I think we've done a good job to try to foresee those fluctuations in revenues."

On the revenue side, property tax income increased last year to $10.3 million from $9.7 million the year before. Similarly, sales tax went up from $5.1 million to $5.7 million.

Revenue from grants decreased $500,000, however, from $8.5 million to $8.0 million and investment earnings registered a $445,000 loss, a $1.1 million hit to income from its $700,000 gain two years ago.

Expenses went down in most major categories. Spending on general government activities went down $100,000, on public safety it decreased by $300,000, on health and welfare it lowered $500,000 and on support services it dropped $70,000.

Harnsberger is not concerned about the loss in investment income because they are "unrealized," and he expects the county to receive the same return from them as expected.

The decrease in value came about because interest rates rose. Investments the county purchased at lower interest rates are worth less now if they were to be sold.

Harnsberger said the county holds onto the investments until they mature, so it receives the same return on its investments it expected when it bought them.

Roads and bridges expenses stayed about the same, and those for ambulance services increased $140,000.

The financial report is soon to be available on the Treasurer's Office website.

"There's some good information in here if people want to take the time to read it," Harnsberger said.

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