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Eddy County government financial picture improving

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CARLSBAD — Tuesday’s Eddy County Commission meeting painted the picture of steady financial improvement.

The impression comes from an audit update conducted on the county’s financial books last fiscal year.

The update was presented by Alan Bowers Jr. of the RPC CPA’s and Consultants firm. It was conducted in July of last year. The preliminary findings were released on Nov. 8, 2017 and the official release took place Jan. 29.

Susan Crockett

“On the audit I think this is our third year with no findings,” said Susan Crockett, chairperson of the Eddy County Commission. Crockett also represents District 5.

“This is huge news, when I first became a commissioner in 2013, we had 15 audit findings and it was quite embarrassing and we had a lot of issues going on in our finance department,” she said.

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Crockett offered praise for Roberta Smith, the county’s finance director.

“She’s been able to correct all of those and having a clean audit means we can apply for more grants and apply for other revenues of funding that you can’t apply for as well as going out for bonding if that’s ever an issue,” she said.

Crockett said bonding money could be used to fix roads or infrastructure.

Smith also presented the commission with a mid-year budget update.

She said the county has a balanced budget during the current fiscal year and she said there was a general fund surplus from the last fiscal of nearly $3 million.

She broke down that surplus in a pie chart for commissioners.

Most of the money, 61 percent, was reallocated back to various departments on Sept. 5 and that was $2 million.

She said the Eddy County Sheriff’s Office got most of the remaining $179,137 and the rest went to general fund departments.

The current fiscal year ends June 30.

Crockett said another surplus should help the county bank account.

“With about a $5 million surplus as Roberta stated those funds need to be used for one time purchases, so I’m sure we’ll be having a lot of requests from various departments and elected officials as far as how they would like for us to spend that money,” Crockett said.

During this fiscal year, Smith showed that the county has hired some new people. While some ECSO positions have been un-frozen as have some jobs at the county jail. There have also been some overhires within ECSO, a long with a pay increase for an emergency manager and a reclassification at the county landfill.

“The hiring is a continual cost,” Crockett said. “We’ll have to work those into the actual budget for the next fiscal year (2018-2019). The one time purchases as far as vehicles (and) equipment those will just come up on a department-to-department basis.”

During her report, Smith also stated the county will see some new revenue during the next fiscal thanks to a 1/12 increase in gross receipts taxes for the Safety Net Care Pool. This was approved last year and is expected to generate nearly $2 million and will go the indigent fund, meaning no money will have to be taken out of the general fund.

Oil and gas revenue is also expected to be budgeted slightly higher from the current fiscal year. Smith said the increase should rise to $14 million from $13.45 million.

General assignment reporter Mike Smith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 307, or at sports2@rdrnews.com.