An annual audit of Wendell’s financial operations and status came back clean, showing a healthy amount of money to pursue new projects even after taking care of other financial obligations.
Finance Director Butch Kay said the biggest point he emphasized with town staff and commissioners is that while the town has over the required 40 percent in the town’s fund balance, some of that money will be used for incomplete projects and fees associated with the development of Wendell Falls.
The town has about $3.9 million that can be used for projects or other costs but $1.7 million of that will eventually be paid to the City of Raleigh for water and sewer service at Wendell Falls, Kay said. That $1.7 million is only an estimated 40 percent of what the town will have to pay to Raleigh to establish some of Wendell Falls’ infrastructure.
Developers of Wendell Falls pay the town for the service and the town will pay the money to Raleigh as construction permits are taken out by builders.
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Kay said there was also about $100,000 put back into the fund balance because of a pavement project that wasn’t complete at the end of the fiscal year. The money is expected to come out this year for the project.
The state of the town’s fund balance – essentially the town’s savings account – has been a regular topic at commissioners’ meetings, with commissioners recently agreeing to spend $200,000 from savings for parks and recreation projects. They also approved an application for a North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant, which requires a local match.
The more expensive option would require the town to pay a little over $500,000. The less expensive option required slightly more than $300,000. Part of that money would likely have to come from the fund balance over the three years the town has to pay it.
After those expenditures, Kay said a conservative estimate of what the town still has available in the fund balance to spend this year is about $200,000. If the town spends more than that it risks dropping below the savings levels town policy calls for.
Notable collection rates
In addition to the fund balance, Wendell’s audit noted the town’s debt decreased by almost 15 percent in the last fiscal year. The town carries little debt – only $375,156 – but what is marked as debt in the audit is sometimes just debt associated with the town’s water and sewer agreement with the City of Raleigh.
That debt is accrued and paid out several times throughout a fiscal year. Financial audits like Wendell’s take information from a small window of time so if debt was paid off after the audit was complete, it may not be reflected in the report.
Phyllis Pearson of the Zebulon-based Petway, Mills and Pearson accounting firm told commissioners that Wendell’s tax collection rate was also good.
Wendell’s property tax collection rate was 98.6 percent. Only $33,016 went uncollected. The town collected $2,341,246 in property taxes in fiscal year 2014, which ended in June.
Pearson also said the collection rates for vehicle registration fees was a “significant improvement” since the state took over the process. 99 percent of Wendell residents paid the fee on time, which equaled $128,295. Only $759 were not collected for the vehicle tags.