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Auditors give Starkville a clean report, find no significant defects


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Carl Smith



Starkville received a clean Fiscal Year 2013-2014 audit from the Mississippi-based accounting firm Watkins, Ward and Stafford on Tuesday. 


The audit included no findings of serious financial issues or weaknesses. 


The report stated the city is financially sound and has a stable economic base evident in continued retail, commercial and residential expansion, strong sales tax returns that rank among the highest in the state,  


Paired with administrators' financial policies, the city's strategic reserves are expected to reach eight-year highs, the report stated. 


Commercial growth associated with numerous housing projects -- $40 million worth of investment within city limits and $150 million outside Starkville -- and various retail projects is expected to push sales tax and ad valorem receipts higher in the near future. 


For the fiscal year, Starkville recorded $68 million in total revenues. Tax revenues accounted for 15 percent of that figure, while intergovernmental monies -- reimbursements, shared revenues and grants -- accounted for 5.34 percent of the city's money. Conversely, Starkville spent $66.7 million in the fiscal year, a $1.48 million decrease from FY 2012-2013. About $50 million worth of expenses were offset by charges for services, grants or outside contributions, and $16.6 million of general revenue covered the remainder. 


Starkville's long-term debt decreased by $2.33 million during the fiscal year. 


Although the city ended with an almost-$1.4 million balance, about $600,000 of those funds were budgeted last year to help service debt associated with the new city hall construction project. The decrease, however, still keeps the above the board's goal of $750,000. 


"When (Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman) and I took office years ago, (the ending fund balance) was about $250,000. That's great news," Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver said at the table Tuesday. 


"The reality of it is that there will hopefully be a surplus of revenues next year that will go on top of the $750,000," added Wiseman. 


Board members asked Randy Scrivner, the Watkins, Ward and Stafford representative who delivers Starkville's annual audit report, where the city should be in terms of an ending fund balance, but the CPA said there is no specific rule or percentage to follow. 


"It depends on the discipline of the board administering the money," he said. "I'm comfortable saying $650,000 because y'all keep such tight purse strings on the budget. There would have been previous boards that I may have said 20 years ago that needed $4 million in the bank."


Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch



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