The town is in good financial health, according to an audit of its 2015-16 books.
Like other North Carolina towns, Smithfield pays an independent accounting firm to look over its books once each fiscal year. This year, the town received “an unmodified opinion,” which, in auditor speak, means Smithfield is spending taxpayer money properly and its accounts are healthy.
Finance Director Greg Siler summed up the town’s 2015-16 fiscal year in a report to the town council on Nov. 1.
Smithfield’s general fund took in slightly more than $13 million last fiscal year, up about 1 percent over the year before. Most of that money came from property taxes and sales taxes. The town’s tax base this past year was $1.07 billion, virtually unchanged from the prior year, Siler said.
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General fund spending, including transfers to other funds, totaled $11.97 million in 2015-16, up 4.6 percent, or $530,000, from the prior year. Siler attributed the higher spending to Smithfield paying off three loans early. The town spends most of its general fund dollars on public safety (36.6 percent), culture and recreation (13.9) and streets and vehicles (11.6 percent.)
On June 30, the end of the fiscal year, Smithfield’s savings, or rainy-day fund, stood at $6.7 million, up $1.24 million from the prior year. The savings is equal to 56 percent of general fund spending, well above the 8 percent the state requires.
“You want a healthy number there,” Siler said of the rainy-day fund. “You want this kind of money on hand for catastrophic events.”
Siler said Smithfield had made considerable strides since 2012, when it had next to nothing in its rainy-day fund.
The town’s debt stands at $8.88 million, down about $1.3 million from a year ago.
The water and sewer fund, which had been hemorrhaging money, is still leaking, Siler said, but is “much improved over the prior year.”
The fund is “still not completely supporting itself,” Siler said, but took in $5.78 million this past year, nearly $300,000 more than the year before. Water and sewer expenses, meanwhile, totaled $6 million, creating a slight deficit that taxpayers had to make up. Still, the year-ago deficit in the fund was $1.27 million, Siler noted.
Siler said the electric fund is “in good shape,” with revenues of $18.1 million and expenses of $15.44 million this past year. Revenues were down about $1.8 million from last year, but expenses fell $3.34 million.
Siler said Smithfield is facing some spending needs in the near future. Among them:
▪ $3.5 million in expenses related to extending Booker Dairy Road behind the Belk and Walmart shopping centers.
▪ $1.4 million to replace a transformer at the Brogden Road substation.
▪ A total of $999,000 this year and next to rehab the town’s aging sewer lines.
▪ $369,000 for sludge-handling equipment at the water plant.
▪ $195,000 for a records-management system.
Town Mike Scott brought the council up to date on some projects around town:
▪ The water-logged aftermath of Hurricane Matthew continues to delay the rebuilding of Venture Drive.
▪ The town has awarded a contract for greenway repairs, but the contractor will have to wait until Raleigh stops releasing water from Falls Lake.
▪ Smithfield figures it has about $650,000 in reimbursable expenses from Hurricane Matthew. It is meeting with FEMA representatives to settle on a dollar amount. The town suffered damage to its infrastructure, including streets, the Hospital Road substation and water and sewer systems.
Abbie Bennett: 910-849-2827; @AbbieRBennett