praise came from Stephen Baloga, senior partner of the auditing
firm of Ernst & Young, while reporting on the annual outside
audit of the county's books to County Council's recently formed
internal audit committee.
county, he said, "is managed well financially."
the firm's representatives participated a closed-door review of
the professional performance of county auditor Robert Hicks, a
report saying that he complied with the requirements set forth
in the state law defining the position and recommending that he
be provided with a staff so that he can better perform his
duties was made public.
performance review itself was not disclosed. State law permits
public agencies to handle such matters in executive sessions not
open to the public and to keep such records confidential.
meeting of the audit committee on Dec. 15, Baloga said the
county's receiving national recognition for the way in which it
manages and reports on financial affairs should not be taken
lightly just because it happens every year. Qualifying for the
awards is done afresh every year and is not influenced by having
received them the previous year, he pointed out.
most recent awards to which he referred were for its
comprehensive annual financial report for the fiscal year ended
June 20, 2003, and for its 2004 budget document. Both are from
the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States
and Canada. New Castle County has received the former for 23
consecutive years and the latter for 14. Baloga said he expects
it will extend both streaks this year.
Similarly, he said, maintaining triple-A bond rating from all
three major national rating services demonstrates that its
fiscal house is in order. That, he said, stands in contrast to
most county and local governments around the country which are
dealing with deficits by raising taxes and cutting services.
high praise professional competence of the Ronald Morris, the
county's chief financial officer and the finance department.
& Young issued an unqualified opinion that the comprehensive
report for fiscal year 2004 meets generally accepted standards
for government accounting and said its audit "resulted in no
identified material weaknesses" and turned up nothing that had
to be reported under current auditing regulations of the U.S.
Office of Management & Budget.
annual report showed net assets of $166 million in government
operations and $190 million in business-type activities, which
are mostly the operation of the sewer system.
Government-activities revenue amounted to $168.3 million, of
which $105.2 million came from property taxes. Revenue was up
from $165.7 million in fiscal 2003. Business revenue was $45.9
million, down from $52.8 million a year earlier. The county's
long-term bonded debt at the end of fiscal 2004 was $190.5
million, which was well below the legal limit of $379.6 million.
Referring to the status of the county's 'surplus', Baloga told
the audit committee that different governments have different
ways of defining 'surplus' and various ways of referring to it.
The audit report said the balance in the general operations fund
at fiscal year-end was $145.3 million. After subtracting amounts
that have been committed or are reserves required by law, the
balance available for future spending, as Delaforum previously
reported, is $10.8 million.
& Young's recommendation to increase the internal audit staff
noted that Hicks is required to perform several administrative
functions in addition to his auditing responsibilities. The
combination of relieving him of some of those non-auditing
duties and enlarging the staff, it said, would eliminate the
need to engage outside auditing firms periodically and "provide
an additional measure of checks and balances" in the county's