CLAYTON — 2012 was a good year for the town’s pocketbook.
An audit report issued last week showed the town earned more than $750,000 in extra revenue during the fiscal year that ended June 30, mostly from cost savings on projects and larger than expected tax revenues.
Town Manager Steve Biggs told council members at their Dec. 17 meeting that the 2011-12 fiscal year was the strongest the town has seen in recent years.
According to town spokeswoman Stacy Beard, the town trimmed about 10 percent from its capital expense budget, money town officials expected to spend on a number of large projects but didn’t have to. Revenues were also up in several key areas including property and sales taxes, and privilege license fees.
The changes netted the town $792,484 in extra cash, money that will be put into the town’s fund balance, or savings account.
That figure represents just over 5 percent of the town’s entire $15 million operating budget.
According to audit figures, the town’s unrestricted fund balance grew by just over $950,000 during the 2012 budget year.
That is money the town can use any way it chooses – to meet emergency needs or to pay for unbudgeted expenditures that crop up in the future.
The town’s restricted fund balance shrank slightly, by $158,165, between 2011 and 2012 as a result of cash flow changes during the audit period.
Town officials say that, despite the good fiscal year, it’s unlikely the town’s financial performance would result in less of a burden on taxpayers in the immediate future.
“This isn’t exactly a cash windfall for the town. The fund balance goes up and down all the time. What we are more interested in is the trend. A couple years ago we were in the 20-25 percent range, so we see this as rebuilding,” Beard said.
The town’s finance policy calls for the town to keep at least 31 percent of its annual operating expenses in savings.
At 38.7 percent of the town’s operating budget, Clayton’s unrestricted fund balance of $5.8 million is about $1.2 million over that floor.
Towns often set money aside for unexpected expenses such as natural disaster recovery or for downturns in the economy like the one that has gripped the nation for much of the past five years.
The town has another $2.6 million in restricted fund balance that is set aside for specific uses.
Some of the town’s future revenues could be going away.
Part of the solid financial performance last year was based on increased revenue from privilege license fees – money businesses pay to the town to operate within the corporate limits.
According to the town, video sweepstakes businesses in Clayton paid $78,000 in privilege license fees last year.
But that money could be lost after the recent state Supreme Court ruling upholding the General Assembly’s decision to ban the companies from operating in North Carolina.
Those companies are now trying to find other ways to stay in business.
Auditors from Anderson, Smith and Wike performed the town’s audit and found no irregularities in the town’s bookkeeping.