Woodstock works to overcome debt, build up reserves
by Megan Thornton
March 27, 2013 12:00 AM | 1688 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WOODSTOCK — The city of Woodstock is making strides toward building up its financial reserves after reporting a general fund deficit this past fiscal year, but the city still must overcome what the city’s auditor called a “significant amount” of debt.

The mayor and council heard a summary of the city’s comprehensive annual financial report for fiscal year 2012 by Jim Whitaker, managing owner of James L. Whitaker PC, during their regular meeting Monday night.

“There is definite improvement over 2011,” Whitaker told the council of the city’s financial situation.

According to the report, several factors contribute to the city’s more positive economic outlook: the construction of commercial and residential properties, including the Outlet Shoppes of Atlanta and the Northside Hospital-Cherokee Towne Lake medical office building; residential new construction permits have more than doubled from 109 in 2011 to 236 in 2012; and both business license and insurance premium taxes are on the rise.

“A lot of cities don’t have that,” Whitaker said of the city’s growth.

Overall, Woodstock’s combined net assets increased $224,392 to $27.8 million. Combined revenue also increased by $1.5 million to $25.8 million — with government activities totaling $18.4 million and business-type activities at $7.4 million.

The city’s governmental funds — including the general fund, SPLOST III, urban redevelopment and the capital projects fund — reported a combined ending fund balance of $909,313.

Also, Woodstock’s combined outstanding long term liabilities decreased by $1.5 million over the past year.

The unassigned fund balance for the general fund, the city’s chief operating fund, was $1.24 million. The total fund balance of the general fund improved by about $226,000, coming up from a deficit in 2011 of $827,487 to $601,960 this past year due to positive cash flow.

“This is a serious situation that deserves close attention by mayor and council,” Whitaker said of the general fund deficit. “However, I think the city has made progress in recent months.”

The city’s long-term debt, which Whitaker said was a “significant amount,” is $42 million with $17.5 million in debt related to government activity and just under $25 million in debt related to business-type activity. The business-type debt includes $19.9 million for a Urban Redevelopment Advisory bond issued in September 2010 to finance renovations and expansions of the city’s water and sewerage system, which is being serviced by the Water and Sewer Fund.

Whitaker said some newly implemented budget controls are crucial to get the city’s deficit under control, including the addition of an internal auditor position.

“You have implemented overall a number of improvements in your accounting system,” Whitaker said.

For 2012, total actual revenues for the general fund were $15.6 million while expenditures were $15.4 million.

Whitaker said the city’s total revenues for FY 2012 were just over $14 million with total expenditures at $19.7 million, creating a $5.6 million deficit. However, the city issued a capital lease proceeds of $5.8 million and transferred $43,590, which ultimately left a positive change in fund balance of $225,518 for the year.

Whitaker noted that most of the capital lease proceeds went to pay off already existing debt.

He added that Robert Porche, Woodstock’s financial director, projected the city will have a positive change in fund balance for the FY 2013.

“It’s continuing to look better for this fiscal year,” Whitaker said.

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