Analysis of county finances presented

The county has operated with a budget deficit for the past five years, including $1.3 million in the 2018 fiscal budget, according to David Rose, senior vice president of Davenport & Company LLC.

His firm was conducted a financial review of the county’s general financial operations and to help determine the reasons behind the recent “cash flow pressure,” Rose said at the Dec. 17 meeting.

In conducting the analysis, Rose said the company in some instances, “went back a decade and in some instances five years. The assessed value trend of the county has been somewhat down the last several years. The reality is the last five years are really what’s most germane because everything is really trending off of that,” he said.

The assessed value per capita is the ratio “that we care about, that investors care about,” he said, adding it “is actually pretty healthy. It’s a little over $100,000 per capita.”

“We are going to suggest are a couple of things to keep in mind as the board moves into January and its fiscal year 2020 deliberations, including refinancing some of the county’s debt.

Of the current overall budget, the county uses 7.25 cents of every dollar to pay its debt service, Rose said. The remaining 92.75 cents is used for other expenses, including education, which increased by $1 million; jail operations – particularly inmate care, which the county has no control of, and the rising costs of providing health insurance.

“We looked at your debts and realized there are some opportunities to do some refinancing and restructuring without extending your debt,” Rose said, adding that will allow the board to “basically do a better job of levelizing your overall debt.”

He added that the county may need additional Revenue Anticipation Notes in the future as an insurance policy, and needs to increase revenues, possibly through an increase in the real estate levy.

He also recommended the board implement/update formal financial policies, especially related to the fund balance/reserve levels, and strive to create structurally balanced budgets.

In other matters, supervisors also heard from:

*Scott Wickham, of Robinson, Farmer, Cox Associates, presented a report on the county’s annual audit. He said the audit report included an unmodified opinion, which is “the best you can have.”

*Steve Terry, of the Blue Ridge District and chairman of the Broadband Committee, discussed the committee’s efforts. He noted that Gov. Ralph Northam upped the current funding from the state to improve broadband, and that the committee is diligently working to position Patrick County for funding, as are several other rural localities.

Terry said concerns included the lack of participation by county officials and staff.

“I don’t know of another county where the county administrator is not up to his eyeballs working on broadband projects,” Terry said. “But I know of a bunch that are working hard and have been working hard for years” and have a “big leg up on us.”

Terry said the committee has been working with Debbie Foley on the project. Foley, the economic development director, soon will step down from her post. Terry said he does not know who the committee will work with next.

“Who will be the prime contact? We can’t just stop. The funds are out there. No longer can you tell the people it won’t happen,” Terry said.

The Rev. Spencer, who retired from CenturyLink, suggested the board pass a resolution and provide it to that company’s chairman to help speed up the process.

The committee will hold its next meeting on Jan. 8 at 6 p.m., Terry said, and invited all those who are interested to attend.

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