County revenue, assets both up for fiscal year

Dec 20, 2012 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Fremont County government saw a $1.1 million increase in net assets and a $5.3 million increase in revenue in the last fiscal year, according to a recent finance report.

Deputy county treasurer Jim Massman detailed the county's finances to the Fremont County Commission on Dec. 18.

The last fiscal year was July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2012.

Net assets went from $129.3 million two years ago to $130.4 million this fiscal year. Net assets are all of the counties assets, including infrastructure, equipment, cash and investments, minus liabilities. Liabilities are obligations to spend money.

Revenue was $33.4 million and expenses were $32.3 million; the difference accounts for the increase in net assets.

The uptick in net assets is a change from two years ago when the asset number dropped $8.9 million.

"Over time, increases or decreases in net assets may serve as a useful indicator of whether the financial position of the county is improving or deteriorating," the financial report said.

"Overall, we're in great shape," county treasurer Scott Harnsberger said later. "We're financially sound."

Besides the increase in net assets, he pointed to the ratio of money the county has on hand compared to financial obligations. The county has $25.1 million in cash and investments and $3.3 million in liabilities.

"We can meet all our cash (flows) and pay all our bills," Harnsberger said.

Tax income

Property tax income was $9.7 million, up $2 million from $7.7 million. Property taxes make up 29 percent of the county's revenue.

The report attributes the increase to higher oil and gas prices.

Property taxes for oil and gas developments are based on the assessed value.

"In 2010 the price of natural gas was down," Harnsberger said. "In 2011 that price recovered quite a bit."

Income from state sales and use tax went up $500,000 from $4.6 million to $5.1 million.

"It's a reflection of the economy recovering," Harnsberger said. "There was more sales activity."

He added that the tax rate did not increase.

Part of the increased revenue also came from a $2.1 million, or 85 percent, increase in capital grants last year compared to two years ago. Such grants come from state and federal governments and pay for road projects and the purchase of energy efficient equipment.

Capital assets

The county's total cash and investments is down $4.2 million from $29.3 to $25.1.

"If you're wondering what happened to the cash, we invested it in capital assets," Massman said at the meeting.

Capital assets generally include equipment, infrastructure and buildings --not the cost to employ personnel or operate programs.

The county's total expenses in fiscal year 2012 were also up by $1.6 million. Expenditures in the general fund, the county's main operating fund, were up by $2.1 million.

Personnel costs in the general fund increased by $1.1 million. Of the total, $700,000 came from the Fremont County Sheriff's Office, and $300,000 was in the road's department.

The county's total expenditures on culture and recreation decreased from $1.3 million two years ago to $5,000 last year.

Most of the $1.3 million two years ago went to upgrade the county fairgrounds, Harnsberger said.

Economic development spending also went down $300,000 to reach $500,000.

After Massman's presentation, commission chairman Doug Thompson asked how the county could keep revenue from the new 1 percent optional sales tax separate from other monies.

Harnsberger said there will be another department within the general fund for that money. That department will only fund road construction and will be kept apart from other funds.

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