ROCKINGHAM — The city’s finances received a relatively clean bill of health from CPA Ken Anderson during Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.
Anderson, of the firm Anderson, Smith & Wike, told the council while presenting the audit report for the previous fiscal year that, other than the debt the city has taken on in the construction of the Richmond Community College downtown campus, things are looking good.
Both the General Fund — with revenues exceeding expenditures by more than $136,000 —and the Water-Sewer Fund are in good shape.
The property tax collection rate is at 99.32%
The AAA bond rating is maintained.
Anderson also said that there hasn’t been that much of an impact from the COVID-19 pandemic on the city’s sales tax receipts, adding that rural areas seem to be doing better than urban areas during the pandemic.
But what is affecting Rockingham’s purse is the Richmond County Board of Commissioners’ decision earlier in the year to change the method of sales tax distribution from per capita to ad valorem.
“Your percentage went from 14.4 percent … down to 9.34 percent — that’s like a 35 percent drop,” Anderson said, adding that the impact is going to be “somewhere around $800,000.”
City Manager Monty Crump immediately responded, “Those numbers aren’t a hoax. They’re real, they’ve been real from Day 1. They’re still real today … Regardless of what the … Richmond County government says.”
Estimates from the N.C. Department of Revenue in May showed Rockingham stood to lose $767,000 from the change.
That loss isn’t just for one year, but in perpetuity unless the new incarnation of the county board reverses the decision.
Responding to a clarification question from Councilman Bennett Deane, Crump said overall sales tax numbers are at or above those of the prior year.
“All this garbage that the county commissioners talked about … Epicenter … COVID effects, everything like that, is simply a lie,” Crump said. “It did not happen and it’s not happening right now … All the stuff that they said is just simply not true.
“The facts don’t lie,” he continued. “You’re entitled to your own opinion, but facts are facts.”
Referencing a letter to the editor from then-chairman of the Board of Commissioners Kenneth Robinette, Mayor Pro Tem John Hutchinson asked Anderson about the suggestion to “plug that hole” with monies from the fund balance.
At $800,000 a year, Anderson said in six years the city would be “belly-up.”
“Of course, we realized that was not a workable solution ourselves,” Hutchinson said, adding that he just wanted to get it on the record.
The city did have to raise property taxes — for the first time in two decades — and garbage collection fees to help soften the blow.
Earlier in the meeting, the council:
- Voted to approve an amendment to clear up language in the sale lease agreement to SBA Site Management for the Verizon equipment on the water tower near the Rockingham Police Department.
- Held a public hearing and voted to readopt the city’s Unified Development Ordinance which was revised to comply with state regulations.
- Set a public hearing for the January meeting to rezone 32.3 acres from light industrial to residential mill village.