Audit shows Cary in good financial health

aspecht@newsobserver.comDecember 24, 2013 

— The town beat its budget expectations by $17 million last fiscal year and is in strong financial standing, according to an independent audit.

Accounting firm Cherry Bekaert reviewed Cary’s financial condition and record-keeping process for fiscal year 2013, which ended in June, and presented a comprehensive annual financial report to the Town Council on Dec. 19.

Auditor Eddie Burke confirmed what Cary Finance Director Karen Mills reported to the council: The town collected $4 million more in revenues than expected and spent $13 million less than expected.

“The town is financially sound,” Burke said.

The audit report comes a year after Cary beat its budget projections by more than $15 million, Mills said.

The extra cash could help the town spend money on projects leaders deem most important. “These results provide flexibility for the future for one-time council priorities,” she said.

To assess Cary’s fiscal health, auditors looked at the town’s net assets, general-fund levels and other revenues and expenditures.

Cary ended fiscal year 2013 with $92.7 million in its general fund, an increase of $3.5 million from the prior year.

Cary’s net assets increased $52.2 million – 3.8 percent jump from the prior year – to $1.4 billion.

The town also collected $1.3 million more in sales-tax revenues than the prior year after only budgeting for a $100,000 increase.

Meanwhile, building-permit activity rose 22 percent for new homes and 50 percent for non-residential construction – possibly a sign the economy is strengthening, said Wes Everett, Cary’s operations analyst.

The jump in non-residential permits is not unprecedented, Everett said. The number jumped 50 percent from 15 permits in fiscal year 2011 to 30 permits in 2012.

“Generally, this category shows a little more year-over-year volatility than some others,” he said.

Last year, 21 of the 45 non-residential building permits were related to “independent projects,” Everett said.

Seventeen of the permits issued were related to four multifamily projects, and seven were related to Cary Self Storage off of N.C. 55, he said.

Doing more with less

Cary received a clean audit for its financial methods and practices – the highest possible recognition.

Burke said his group had no recommendations for improvement and was given access to every record requested.

“The word transparency ... was truly the case throughout the process,” he said.

The town is faring well and keeping good records despite operating with the lowest employee-to-population ratio in 10 years.

Cary has about 1,155 employees and serves a population of 144,982, according to the audit. That’s 7.97 employees for every 1,000 people, down from 8.05 last year and 9.49 in 2004.

Specht: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @AndySpecht

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