Red Springs gets good audit, wants to boost tax collections

First Posted: 11/13/2013

RED SPRINGS — An auditor told Red Springs officials Tuesday night that the town is in good financial shape despite a sluggish economy.

The Red Springs Board of Commissioners received results from its annual audit for the fiscal year that ended June 30 from Alan Thompson, an auditor with the firm of Thompson, Price, Scott, Adams and Company in Whiteville. According to the audit, the town’s fund balance increased from $911,464 in 2012 to $1,031,576 in 2013. In 2010, the town’s General Fund balance was $352,056.

“In terms of progress, a lot of good movement has been made,” Thompson said.

The fund balance available as a percentage of expenditures was 29.16 percent in 2013, compared with a state average of 19.5 percent. The state Local Government Commission recommends that a governing body maintain a minimum balance of 8 percent.

“This is highest it has ever been,” Thompson said. “This is a big deal in terms of avoiding those nasty letters from the Local Government Commission.”

Thompson did say that the town needed to be more aggressive with tax collection. The current tax collection rate for Red Springs is 91.35 percent. The state average is 96.71 percent.

“Tax collection has been an issue,” Thompson said. “But it has also been a challenge for many rural towns in North Carolina.”

Commissioner Bob Hollingsworth said that the county is responsible for collecting taxes for Red Springs and that there may be little that the town can do to aid that effort.

Mayor John McNeill said that the county does a good job at collecting back taxes, which is not included in the current tax collection rate. Red Springs has a tax rate of 64 cents for every $100 of property value.

McNeill suggested that the town meet with county officials to talk about tax collection.

“Maybe that will gives us a better understanding of what they are doing and urge the county to be a little more aggressive.” he said.

Also on Monday, the board voted not to make the payment history of its utility customers accessible to the public.

Town Manager James Bennett said staff recently learned that such information could be made public if that was town policy.

“Currently, we don’t give information to the public about utility customer’s pay history,” Bennett said. “We do have the option of allowing or disallowing the information to be given to another person. For example, a citizen could request the payment history of his or her neighbor … if he or she was late, amount owed, cut offs and late fees.”

“Don’t give out the customer’s history,” Commissioner Duron Burney said. “We are not in the business of giving out personal information.”

Scott Witten works for Civitas Media as editor of The St. Pauls Review and The Red Springs Citizen.