Penny-pinching helps county prosper during first year of pandemic

Preston Singleton of Cedar Park-based Singleton, Clark & Co. gives a presentation related to Bee County's fiscal year 2020 financial audit during the March 29 meeting of the Bee County Commissioners Court. 

Good old fashioned financial discipline is being credited with helping Bee County to come out on top after its first fiscal year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The commissioners court, at its March 29 special meeting, listened to Preston Singleton of Cedar Park-based Singleton, Clark & Co. give a presentation related to the county’s financial audit for the 2020 fiscal year. He said the entire audit was completed remotely, due to the pandemic, with all of Bee County’s materials sent remotely and reviewed off site.

Singleton said all of the financial statements are accurate as presented, which is why he gave an unmodified – or clean – opinion.

But where the county really shone was the fund balance, to which $434,017 was added after that amount went unspent, despite COVID-19 being declared a worldwide pandemic about midway in the previous fiscal year.  Bee County saw general fund revenues of approximately $13.7 million, while spending roughly $12.1 million, Singleton said. Expenditures came in around $1.1 million under budget.

“The jail and the sheriff’s office account for most of that $1.1 million, and they are to be commended,” said County Auditor April Cantu. “There was no district court so that was about $2,000 we saved each month because the hearings were done virtually.”

The budget had forecasted about $869,000  in transfers, Singleton said. However, approximately $1.5 million was moved between funds, with  almost $600,000 going toward construction of the new Robert L. Horn Jail and Carlos Carrizales Jr. Law Enforcement Center. 

The county’s reserves now total more than $5.7 million, which Singleton said is 5 1/2 to 6 months worth of expenditures and reserves. Generally accepted accounting practices recommend public entities keep at least three months’ operating cash on hand.

“I spoke with the county auditor, and she said it was due to conservative and careful spending during the pandemic,” he said.

The commissioners took no action on the audit report. They did, however, vote unanimously to a memorandum of understanding with Coastal Plains Community Center with respect to Bee County providing additional services to the behavioral health care organization. County Judge Trace Morrill said the county will provide a uniformed sheriff’s deputy and one patrol vehicle, both of which can be utilized from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day to provide services such as welfare checks and commitments.

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