Summit County in positive financial shape, outside audit shows
August 16, 2014
Summit County's finances are in good shape, according to the findings of its annual audit with Eide Bailly, a firm with locations in Frisco, Denver and Vail.
The audit, which government organizations must complete annually, evaluated Summit's financial performance for fiscal year 2013. Summit received a "clean" audit opinion from Eide Bailly.
"This means that we present our financial statements fairly, transparently and accurately," said Summit County finance director Marty Ferris. "We have solid internal controls over financial reporting, which means there are no deficiencies or material weaknesses."
The auditor found that the county's funds are in good shape with one exception. Although Summit County Ambulance experienced an unprecedented increase in calls for service in 2013, the fund has been lagging in recent years due to an inability to collect on all of its bills.
"Summit County Ambulance's collection rate is about 50 to 60 percent, which actually isn't that bad compared to similar agencies in Denver and on the Front Range," Ferris said. "The problem is their billings were up a lot last year, but their collection rates keep eroding every year."
Aside from the ambulance fund, the rest of the county's financial picture appears to be trending in an upward direction, thanks to conservative budgeting and a recovering economy. Last year represented the first since the start of the economic recession in 2008 that the county's revenues exceeded its expenses, Ferris said.
County revenues increased by $3.7 million, or 6.1 percent, in 2013, while the total cost of programs and services dropped by $158,000, or .27 percent. Total revenues exceeded total budgeted expenses by $6.8 million, according to the report.
Of the $3.7 million increase in revenues, $3 million came from government services, including increases in sales taxes, mass transit taxes and capital grants of $500,000, $700,000 and $590,000, respectively. Sales tax revenue increased by more than 13 percent compared with 2012. Revenues from licenses and permits were up $330,000, as were clerk and recorder fees, which exceeded 2012 numbers by $300,000.
Total government expenses in 2013 were $47.1 million, a decrease of $320,000 from 2012, according to the audit.
In the general fund, officials anticipated in 2013 they would have to draw down the fund balance by about $300,000, the report stated. Officials ended up adding $2.1 million to the fund.
"I think 2013 was a good year financially," Ferris said. "Revenues exceeded expenditures, which is a goal, but you never really know what's going to happen."
Managing the county's finances is a balancing act, Ferris said, because its impossible to know what to expect. One year revenues from fees for service could be way up, then down the next.
Sales tax revenue so far in 2014 also is beating projections, which is a good sign considering the county's main source of revenue — property taxes — will continue to be low through at least 2015 following two straight cycles of negative assessed valuations.
"We're continuing to budget conservatively and that's brought sales tax revenues in well above projections," Ferris said.