Winnsboro Town audit reveals $900K shortfall

WINNSBORO – Winnsboro Town Council received its audit report during council meeting, Monday night with news of a budget shortfall of $900,000. 

CPA Bill Hancock pointed out that, in past years, council has voted to cover budget shortfalls with a transfer of monies from the utility fund.

“In the past, there has been a sizeable transfer from the utility fund every year,” Hancock said. “Because the utility fund took that hit over several years’ time, the Town decided not to do that this past year.  So the general fund ended up living on reserves giving you a $900,000 deficit.  That is not sustainable, obviously,” he said. 

Hancock stated that revenues could only come in the form of increased taxes, money from the state, and increasing rates for utilities.  He suggested a rate study for utilities be conducted. 

“It has been several years since you’ve done a rate study.  What they will do is take into account capital projects and utility rates at the same time,” he said. 

Hancock also discussed unfunded obligations for state retirees, going over the actuary analysis for categories of retirees and asked council if they thought the figures are reasonable.  In the current actuary table of state employees by category, Hancock told council to take a closer look at such things as the prediction of male Highway Patrol officers living to age 106. 

“Some of the predictions are over-inflated,” he said.  “These predictions on the life span of retired state employees could affect the budget of the Town, whose total share of the unfunded pension liability is $7.5 million. You cannot pay the amount off early even if you had the money. They won’t let you.  So all you can do is pay monthly on the amount based on your payroll.  In every instance that we tested, you did pay and are in compliance,” Hancock said. 

With council receiving the audit at the beginning of the meeting, Town Manager Jason Taylor said that after council members have had a chance to read over the audit, they would like to meet with Hancock again to go over questions they might have. 

In other business: Finance Director Kathy Belton reported utility funds were up from last month due to being able to estimate billing.

“There were two major cycles where we did the estimated bills. Right now we are in the middle of billing one of those cycles for the outlying areas,” Belton said.  “As a result, a lot of our customers have credits we will be putting back on their bills.  The response from the public has been positive so far.”

Taylor discussed downtown revitalization efforts that are underway, saying the Town is looking into exercising an option on property adjacent to town hall. 

Dilapidated properties on Zion Street and Cemetery Street are being assessed for demolition, according to Taylor.

“Several of these properties were donated to the town, and other properties were behind on their property taxes,” he said. “The rest belong to the county.”

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