A belated report from Elon’s independent auditor proved well worth the wait when it was finally presented to the town’s municipal leaders on Tuesday.
That evening, Becky Loy of Cobb, Ezekiel, Loy & Company made an unscheduled appearance before Elon’s town council in order share her firm’s glowing review of the 12-month period that ended on June 30, 2022.
Loy ultimately blamed “turmoil” in her personal life for the tardiness of her report, which most municipalities received from their respective auditors in either December or January. Loy was indirect about the loss she suffered earlier this year when her husband lost his battle with cancer. All the same, she was unambiguous in her praise of the way that the town has kept up with its finances. “Everything looks really good in the numbers,” Loy assured the council in her presentation, “and one of the things that really sums this up is the unreserved fund balance [or usable savings]. You are required to have 8 percent [of the town’s annual expenditures stashed away as fund balance], and you have 101.4 percent.”
According to Loy’s report, the town’s general fund took in a total of $8,837,202 during the past fiscal year in order to cover most of the municipality’s services and operations. This figure amounts to an increase of $49,245 from the previous financial cycle. Moreover, it exceeded the general fund’s outlays by a sum of $1,328,693 – which helped raise the fund’s spendable savings, or unreserved fund balance, to its yearend total of $8,229,084.
Loy added that the past fiscal year had been similarly lucrative for the self-contained fund that sustains the town’s water and sewer system. She noted that the fund’s revenues shot up from $4,260,081 to $5,406,766 due to a 10-percent rate increase combined with an even greater surge in consumption. In the meantime, the fund shelled out just $4,016,572 on operations and maintenance, allowing another $1,390,194 to flow into the funds savings.
Loy went on to commend the council for the financial policies that had led to this seven-figure surge in its water and sewer reserves.
“Nobody wants to increase rates,” she conceded. “But sometimes you have to do that…and I think it’s important when you have an aging infrastructure that you have to constantly make improvements to.”
A fly in the ointment
Loy also raised one small caveat with the council about the town’s financial management.
The town’s auditor noted that the town’s public safety department, which encompasses both police and fire protection, had exceeded its budget by $63,000 during the past fiscal year.
Loy attributed this glitch to a mid-year property purchase that hadn’t been accompanied by the budget amendment needed to balance the books. She presumed that this budget amendment had simply slipped through the cracks amid the personnel changes that had shaken up the town’s finance department last year. Loy nevertheless acknowledged that she was compelled to report this lapse to the state despite her overall confidence in the town’s finances.
The council ultimately voted 5-to-0 to accept the results of Loy’s audit.
From financial to parking reserves
The council gave a similarly unanimous nod to an ordinance revision that will enable the town to provide a modicum of employee parking for commercial establishments in Elon’s downtown business district.
According to Elon’s town manager Richard Roedner, this newly-adopted amendment will allow the town to reserve a small gravel lot that it currently leases from AT&T for the exclusive use of downtown merchants and their employees. Roedner added that this lot, which costs Elon about $6,000 a year, can accommodate about 10 vehicles that would otherwise have to take their chances in the time-restricted spaces in other parts of downtown.
In order to facilitate this new policy, the town plans to issue four parking stickers to every merchant in the town’s downtown business district. Roedner told the council that, by approving the aforementioned ordinance amendment, its members have empowered the town’s police department to issue tickets to vehicles lacking these stickers that find their way into the lot.