Van Buren County financial statements are audited, several major issues found
Posted By Kim Swindell Wood | June 2, 2020 7:17 am
A letter from the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury – Division of Local Government Finance has been presented to the Van Buren County mayor [executive] and board of commissioners that outlines several financial issues that state officials said need to be resolved.
The letter, which was dated May 18, 2020 and signed by the director of the Division of Local Government Finance, stated these problems were discovered after a review of the county’s audit financial statements.
The issues are listed below, with instructions from the Division of Local Government Finance.
(1) The County’s lack of internal controls has led to a default on debt service payments. Consequently, pursuant to T.C.A. § 9-21-403, we are requiring the County to submit to our Office weekly financial statements that include cash flow statements, pending cash payments, and available cash balances for specific funds. Please submit your first weekly financial statement to our office this Friday, May 22, 2020.
(2) Pursuant to T.C.A. § 9-21-151, the County is required to submit a Report on Debt Obligation to our Office for all capital project borrowings. The County did not submit this Report for the 2017 Lease Purchase Agreement ($575,000) that was executed for the acquisition of a solid waste company. Please submit the required form and properly disclose that transaction to our Office as soon as possible.
(3) As noted in your recent audit, the transfers made for cash flow purposes from the General Capital Projects Fund to the General Fund ($300,000), Solid Waste/Sanitation Fund ($17,500) and the Local Purpose Tax Fund ($2,000) during fiscal year 2019 were issued contrary to statutory requirements. Consequently, this transfer is a nonconforming obligation that the County will need to ratify and cure retroactively. The County will need to approve the conversion of this illegal transfer into an interfund tax anticipation note and request our Office to approve the conversion and the extension of a repayment schedule through the end of Fiscal Year 2025 due to financial distress. Please note, before making any future transfers, please check with our Office to ensure the funds being transferred are not restricted. That is the key distinction between a legal transfer and an illegal interfund loan.
(4) The County has issued tax and revenue anticipation notes (TRANs) for fiscal year 2020 ($200,000 issued by the General Fund to the General Purpose School Fund and $30,000 issued by the General Fund to the General Debt Service Fund). The County has committed to this Office that the TRANs will be repaid no later than June 30, 2020. Please advise our Office as soon as those are repaid.
Also provided to the county mayor and board of commissioners were the following “Seven Keys to a Fiscally Well-Managed Government.”
Building a strong budget for a resilient government
Structurally Balanced Budget – A budget is structurally balanced when recurring revenues are sufficient to pay recurring expenditures. Recurring revenues can be relied on every year (property taxes, sales taxes, wheel taxes). Recurring expenditures are those required for normal governmental operations (debt payments, salaries, pension payments). Using overly optimistic revenue projections or underestimating expenditures, as well as relying on one-time revenue from selling assets, restructuring debt, spending savings, or deferring maintenance indicate the budget is not structurally balanced. [TCA § 9-21-403]
Cash Flow Management – A local government’s ability to track how much revenue is coming into the government and how much is going out is vital to its fiscal health. Local governments that rely heavily on property taxes will need larger cash reserves to fund governmental
services until tax revenue is received. Prior to its adoption, the budget must contain adequate revenues along with cash on hand to fund the government throughout the year. In addition, local governments need to have plans in place if additional sources of liquidity either internally (interfund tax anticipation note “TAN”) or externally (bank issued TAN) prove to be necessary. [TCA § 9-21-801]
Forecasting Budgetary Amounts – Mechanisms for forecasting revenues and expenditures that consider economic trends and growth rates provide for reliable revenue estimates. Local governments that do not routinely forecast budgetary amounts may find revenues overstated and expenditures understated. [TCA § 9-21-403]
Planning for unknowns
Rainy Day Reserve – Beyond liquidity management, local governments need to have reserves for unforeseen events like natural disasters or economic downturns. A government that creates a rainy-day fund should at times expect to use the reserves, but also have a policy for replacing the funds.
Contingency Spending Plans – Knowledge of what part of a budget is discretionary and can be legally and practically cut is necessary for dealing with unforeseen circumstances. If an event decreases a significant revenue source or increases spending during a year and revenues cannot be adjusted quickly then cuts to expenditures are necessary. Prior planning as to what cuts will be made will expedite the recovery.
Planning for tomorrow
Long-Term Liability Planning – Debt, pension, and OPEB payments are set amounts in the annual budget. The larger these payments are, the less ability the governing body has to make changes to the budget. Ongoing decisions of whether to issue additional debt or to make changes to benefits have a direct budgetary impact that must be considered. When the repayment of long-term liabilities comprise a large percentage of the budget, consistent management of the government’s obligations is essential.
Multi-Year Financial Planning – Having a plan that considers the long-term affordability of programs or projects before they become an item in the annual budget is crucial. Assets will need to be replaced, maintenance performed, and programs expanded; advanced planning of these items will help ensure the funding is available in the future.
Further details are available at this time.