Audit: Downward trend continues for county finances

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Moffat County government ended 2003 with a 9 percent decrease in available resources from 2002, according to a draft audit by accounting firm McMahan and Associates L.L.C.

Accountant Paul Backes presented the audit to the Moffat County Board of Commissioners at a meeting on Friday.

The decrease continues the downward trend the county has been experiencing since 1998, when the county finished the year with $9.228 million in available resources, about twice as much as it had this year.

The general fund saw the largest decrease, having dropped $540,347 from 2002. But when transfers from the general fund to the jail fund, central duplicating, the airport and cemetery are removed from the calculation, general fund expenditures only increased by 1 percent, Backes reported.

The road and bridge, social services, landfill, jail and capital projects funds all decreased in 2003. The library, senior citizens and health insurance funds were the only funds to see increases in the county.

The money in the health insurance fund comes from other funds, making the status of the fund misleading, Backes said.

"A lot of times when things get tight, governments run a deficit in health insurance, which makes other funds look better. In this case, it's the opposite," he said.

The health insurance fund increased by almost $318,000 last year. It's good to have a healthy reserve, Backes said, but he told the commissioners they could use some of that money to increase other fund balances.

The good news was that the county finished 2003 with an ending general fund balance of almost half a million dollars more than projected. However, that was still a decrease of 27 percent from 2002.

Backes advised the commissioners of several cost-saving measures they could implement in next year's budget cycle.

The Sheriff's Office, Shadow Mountain Clubhouse and the Museum of Northwest Colorado are accepting or considering accepting credit cards for payments. By consolidating these departments with one credit card vendor, Backes said the county could save money as well as simplify work.

Backes also recommended that the commissioners utilize an insurance bond to fund the 1998 and 2001 Certificate of Participation Reserve, which pays back loans on the Public Safety Center. Governments commonly utilize insurance bonds to change restricted assets to unrestricted assets, Backes said. He discouraged the commissioners from using the freed up funds to increase operations, but said the method is still a good way to increase cash flow.

Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or rgebhart@craigdailypress.com.

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