Week of Apr. 7, 2004
audit shows weak financial condition
Not enough &ldots; were the words the Williamston Town Council heard more than once as they were presented with the results of the financial audit for fiscal year 2003 at their regular meeting Monday night.
Larry Finney representing the accounting firm of Greene, Finney & Horton explained that the Town received an unqualified opinion based on the audit that the firm performed and commended the town on improved record keeping and internal financial controls.
On the other hand, Finney described the financial condition of the town as weak and emphasized a growing concern with the Towns decreasing fund balance over the last three years. The Town has suffered significant reductions in fund balance that raise substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern, the report stated.
The audit report showed that a $74,618 deficiency in 2001 resulted in a fund balance of $1,239,800. Deficiencies amounting to $398,995 in 2002 resulted in a fund balance of $889,699. The audit for 2003 showed a deficiency of $148,733 which resulted in a fund balance of $740,966.
According to the report, factors which have contributed to the reduction in the fund balance include significant non-recurring capital expenditures, a lack of accurate and complete monthly financial information due to system deficiencies, and a reduction in the vehicle property tax rate by the South Carolina legislature.
In response to its financial difficulties, the Town significantly cut costs in 2003 but still ended the year with a deficiency, the report stated. The Town has done an excellent job of reducing costs, but cost-cutting is not enough, Finney stated.
Town expenditures for 2003 were down $523,000 - 18% less than for the year 2002, Finney added.
The budget compared to actual expenditures showed a variance of $288,202. Finney attributed this to an $18,000 decrease in estimated state revenues and a $167,000 increase in public safety, a $64,000 increase in public works, and a $69,000 increase in insurance premiums.
According to Finney, the water and sewer enterprise fund struggled in 2003 and showed approximately a 2% decrease in earnings.
With operating cash very low, Finney emphasized that the Town needed to make some changes to increase the fund balance and add cash. Finney suggested that the Town consider implementing a special tax levy for debt service millage since the debt service was the major reason for the deficit last year.
Responding to the report, Mayor Phillip Clardy said that he was pleased with the progress that has been made yet challenged with the progress that is yet to be made.
Clardy added that while it may look good politically not to raise taxes, something would have to be done to address the deficit.
Department heads hear me say No, no to financial requests constantly, Clardy said.
The Town absorbed insurance costs versus a cost-of-living raise for employees this year, Clardy said. An additional expense will occur when the state increases the retirement percentage next year, Clardy added.
Responding to questions after the meeting, Clardy admitted that the council would have to consider adding solid waste fees or recycling fees as well as increase franchise fees in order to address the deficit and increase the fund balance. Clardy stated that the council would also begin reviewing the budget and consider amendments.
The possibility of a professional baseball team in Anderson was the main topic of discussion at the Anderson County Council meeting Tuesday night.
Council members listened as Bruce McClure of the Carolina Warriors collegiate baseball organization talked to them about placing a minor league professional franchise in Anderson an idea under discussion with county officials since September.
McClure presented an outline of his proposal and emphasized that no tax money was spent on the study that was conducted to generate the proposal.
McClure said that an investment group had already purchased a franchise, hired staff to run the franchise and drafted plans for a stadium. Who would pay for the cost of the multi-million dollar stadium was not clearly stated.
McClure indicated that the town of Easley was highly interested in the idea, but he expressed his preference for locating the franchise in Anderson. I want professional baseball in Anderson, South Carolina, McClure emphasized.
Currently the biggest user of facilities at the Sports and Entertainment Center, McClures organization leases fields at the sports complex for many events.
McClures idea generated a number of questions from council members who were cautious about the idea and about possible costs to the county.
Anderson County Administrator Joey Preston emphasized that the county staff has not had a chance to work with McClure since a formal proposal had not been submitted.
Since the land at the Civic Center is public property, Attorney Tom Martin advised county officials that the issue is a complex one.
Proper procedure would be to seek requests for proposals and open bids on such a project, Martin advised. With that information available and with recommendations from county officials, the council would then make a decision on such a project, Martin explained.
The Williamston Police Department has been approved as an Upstate regional training location by the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy, town officials announced Monday.
This is an honor for the Williamston Police Department and our community. The Criminal Justice Academys decision also brings opportunity and recognition to an agency they deem professional enough to join them in conducting specialized law enforcement training, Mayor Phillip Clardy said as he made the announcement at the regular meeting of the Williamston town council.
The decision came after a representative of the Academy met with Police Chief Troy Martin and conducted a tour of meeting rooms and training facilities to determine if the police department met the criteria for a training facility for the academy.
The decision also allows Williamston officers to receive training locally without having to travel to other locations.
The first academy class in Williamston will be held May 17-18 and is limited to 50 participants.
Anderson County Administrator Joey Preston and members of the county staff presented two Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) to Mayor Phillip Clardy at the Williamston council meeting Monday night.
Representing a total value of $4,400, the life-saving equipment was received through the South Carolina Rural Health Association.
Williamston is the first community in the county to receive this equipment. Wed like to see AEDs in all communities in Anderson County, said Tommy Thompson, County Emergency Services Director.
Local officials are excited about the increased opportunity to save lives with the new equipment. One AED will be placed with the fire department and the other AED will be placed with the police department.
According to the American Red Cross, more than 200,000 Americans die from sudden cardiac arrest each year. If AEDs were available for immediate use during these emergencies, nearly 50,000 of those deaths could be prevented.
According to the American Heart Association, sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) occurs when the lower chambers of the heart suddenly stop beating normally and develop what is called ventricular fibrillation (VF).
If this condition is not corrected immediately, death usually follows within 10 minutes. A defibrillator is the only known device that stops the abnormal heart activity and allows the heart to re-pace itself to a normal rhythm.
For every minute following the onset of SCA, the chance of a persons survival drops by 10%. Utilizing a defibrillator increases the survival rate to as much as 80% if the defibrillator is placed on the person within a few minutes.
Anderson County authorities are searching for a man who robbed a bank in Powdersville late Tuesday afternoon.
A black male described as 55 tall and weighing 150 pounds walked into Central Carolina Bank around 4:50 p.m., told the teller he had a gun but did not show a weapon, and demanded money. He fled the bank with an undisclosed amount of money.
A witness noticed a large gray car parked behind the Ingles nearby which was believed to be connected with the robbery. The witness furnished authorities with a tag number for the vehicle - 602 NVT - which is not registered to the vehicle described.
Authorities are investigating the vehicle information further at this time according to Capt. Dale McCard of the Anderson County Sheriffs Department.
Anyone with any further information is asked to call the Sheriffs Office at 260-4402.
Work has begun on a new addition at Cedar Grove which will include six classrooms, a resource room, a teacher work room and bathrooms.
Anderson School District One Board of Trustees recently awarded M. L. Garrett Construction Co. of Greenville the construction bid for the expansion. The company bid $813,493 for the project, which has a completion date of August 2004.
The addition will increase student capacity at the school from 500 to 650, according to Superintendent Dr. Reggie Christopher. Christopher said the capacity is a good number for elementary schools in the district.
This is the second addition for the school since it was constructed in 1991. A new wing was added in 2000.
Christopher said the population in the area the school serves has grown rapidly.
The addition is similar to additions at Powdersville, Hunt Meadows and Wren Elementary schools, according to Christopher.
A $2 million general obligation bond was awarded in February to Ross, Sinclaire & Associates, Inc., the lowest of eight bidders, at an interest rate of 2.144 percent.
The five year bond will cover building additions at Cedar Grove Elementary and allow the district to begin an addition at Palmetto High School, according to Christopher.
About half of the $2 million will go to the Cedar Grove project. The rest will be used to begin work on the Palmetto project.
An additional $2.5 million bond issue is expected to be let out next February to complete the freshman academy project at Palmetto High, according to Christopher.
The planned 30,000 square-foot addition will include administrative offices, six classrooms, two science labs, a student commons and an auxiliary gym.
Palmetto has operated a freshman academy, which is housed in a new addition at the school, since the beginning of the 2001-2002 school year.
The student population at the school has increased enough to require the new rooms, district officials said.