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Local officials criticize SCBCB report

Posted: January 3, 2014 4:41 p.m.
Updated: January 6, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Are government agencies funded by tax dollars in Kershaw County in the red? Citizens might have thought so based on a November 2013 report issued by the S.C. Office of Budget and Control Board (SCBCB). However, area officials say the report is not as simple as it appears and doesn’t paint an accurate financial picture.

The SCBCB’s Office of Research and Statistics (ORS) published the report using information from Fiscal Year 2012, the most recent available. It showed total county revenues -- taking Kershaw County; the municipalities of Bethune, Elgin and Camden; and the Kershaw County School District (KCSD) into account -- of nearly $148.6 million. It also reported total expenditures of more than $159.7 million, resulting in an apparent $11 million in overspending by the county as a whole for FY 2012.

Kershaw County Administrator Vic Carpenter said the report is misleading.

“That’s not what’s actually going on,” Carpenter said. “They have created a report for their own purposes and it’s intended to satisfy their needs and I don’t know what those needs are. It doesn’t include all the revenues, but does include all the expenses, so it shows us operating in the red more than would even be possible. It should not be used as a barometer or an indication of the financial situation because that’s not what it reflects.

“The only document anyone should really pay attention to is the annual audit. That’s the legal document that shows our financial position. It’s available online and can be seen by everyone. There’s a lot of distrust of government, but we are good stewards of the people’s money and our audit shows that.”

Kershaw County Finance Director Angie Helms said the report also did not reflect the actual money flow for the county.

“We’ve talked to the state budget and control board. They said it was not an accurate report,” Helms said. “We have an audit book done by an independent auditor every year. If you look at the audit for 2012, we did quite well. We had budgeted to take approximately $1.4 million from our reserve funds and we did not do that. We did not overspend what we had budgeted.”

The ORS report did not break down its FY 2012 findings by city, but claimed that Kershaw County’s municipalities took in a total of $10.45 million but spent $17.43 million, a difference of nearly $7 million.

That number does not match up with what the Chronicle-Independent reported in December 2012 of just the city of Camden’s situation when Cantey, Tiller, Pierce & Green presented its audit of that past fiscal year’s finances. During a Camden City Council work session, auditor Ricky Tiller reported that the city’s general operating fund generated $50,115 in income -- not a loss -- for FY 2012. Even though revenues were flat that fiscal year, the city still came out ahead.

Camden City Manager Mel Pearson pointed out that Camden has not operated at a deficit for many years.

“(The report) is grossly inaccurate,” Pearson said. “There are some major elements missing from their numbers. The city of Camden doesn’t have unbalanced budgets and it’s been a long time since we reported deficits. Our revenue has two major funds. One is the general fund. Its revenue last year was $8,980,000. Our expenses were $8,968,000. Now, if that’s not balanced, I don’t know what is,” Pearson said. “The utility fund is larger, around $27 million. We provide electric service, water and sewer service and also had a gain for the year. We haven’t lost money in the city for many years.”

The ORS report did not appear to include, or at least underreported, figures concerning utility services.

As for the school district, the ORS reported that total revenues for FY 2012 stood at $111.19 million, and that it spent $113.04 million for a difference of about $1.85 million. While KCSD officials were on vacation this week and, therefore, not available for comment, Burkett, Burkett & Burkett’s audit of the district’s 2011-12 finances is available on the KCSD website. In that report, auditors reported a fiscal-year end “positive general fund balance of $7,291,590,” up from the previous fiscal year’s approximately $6.2 million figure.

(Editor Martin L. Cahn contributed to this report.)

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