The county has been able to maintain these excellent ratings since being upgraded by Moody’s and S&P in 2010. Moody’s cited, among other things, the county's solid financial position with a history of conservative budgeting of revenues and expenses, sizable Debt Service Fund reserves, stable tax base and a manageable debt burden. I want to commend County Finance Director Lynn Burns and her staff for a job well done.
Each year auditors from the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office spend about four to five months in the finance director’s offices pouring over the county’s financial records. As in years past, the comptroller’s report pronounced Bradley County to be in good financial condition with no major findings. The independent auditor concluded that "there was a reasonable basis for rendering an unqualified opinion (or a "clean audit”) for the county’s financial statements for the fiscal year and they are fairly presented in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles.” The report confirms that Bradley County qualified as a low-risk auditee.
The state audit also shows that during the past 12 months we have paid down the county’s debt by $3.5 million. This compares to a $3.2 million reduction of debt in the previous fiscal year. I will point out that most all of the current debt primarily reflects monies borrowed to build new schools and make capital improvements to existing school facilities and the construction of the new Justice Center in 2006.
We have also increased the county’s assets by 1.6 percent over the previous fiscal year which is a significant accomplishment. If this were put in the context of running a business you would say, “ ... we reduced our debt and made a profit.” However, government is not allowed to make a profit, but we can increase the people’s assets in the form of new schools, public parks, fire halls, revenue on hand and others. Government is not a business, but I believe the people’s business should be run like one.
The audit provided a few highlights of the county’s financial position which include this: The county’s assets exceed its liabilities by $24,836,861. The county schools’ assets are $73,606,653 more than liabilities; and Bradley Healthcare and Rehabilitation assets exceed liabilities by $5,074,159. This gives the county a net asset total of $103,517,673. The summary can be found on pages 28 and 29 of the audit. Total long-term debt at year end was $82,320,458 and Bradley County’s combined ending fund balance was $45,725,896.
The audit showed no material weaknesses and no instances of noncompliance related to the county’s financial statements. It also showed no significant deficiencies in internal control over major county programs. The audit did show a need for better documentation and managerial oversight of the credit card policy in the Bradley County Fire & Rescue Department. The county has responded by distributing credit card policy documents to Fire & Rescue staff with credit card access, and training will be done.
Bradley County has established a comprehensive internal control framework that conforms to generally accepted accounting principles. It is designed to protect the taxpayers’ assets from loss, theft or misuse, and to compile sufficient reliable information for the preparation of Bradley County’s financial statements. When internal control issues are brought to our attention, we immediately take actions to correct the situations if possible.
As county mayor, I am very pleased with the auditor’s report. The auditor’s goal is to provide reasonable assurance that the financial statements of Bradley County are true and transparent. It confirms that Bradley County’s accounting and reporting standards are current and something to be proud of as we continue to correct deficiencies and tighten our controls.
A copy of the full audit can be obtained from the county’s website at http://www.bradleyco.net/acct_summary.aspx.
I am proud of the financial position Bradley County is in as we continue to weather the nation’s economic storm. We have tremendous resources, the right location, good schools and some of the world’s greatest people. By working together we will continue to lay out a road map for our community’s future.