County 6% under budget in ‘cleanest’ financial audit


Published: Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at 4:15 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at 4:15 p.m.

An accounting firm looking over Alachua County’s books has returned what one local official called, “the cleanest audit opinion you can get.’’

“It’s good for the county, and it’s something county management and the County Commission should be proud of,” Todd Hutchison, finance director for the Clerk of the Circuit Court, said Tuesday after the County Commission accepted the report.

According to the county’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the county came in about 6 percent under budget in its General Fund, which is the primary operating fund.

“One of the primary reasons was they were able to maintain a majority of the reserve for contingency,” Hutchison said.

“So, about 3.3 percent of that savings was the result of not having to use the full amount that was budgeted for contingencies and then pretty much every function of the county came in under budget as well, which makes up the additional savings.”

From a government-wide standpoint, meaning across all funding sources, from fiscal year 2012 to fiscal year 2013, the county’s total expenses basically remained flat, with a -0.2 percent change from $236.1 million to $235.7 million.

The report also showed that property taxes decreased by 3.1 percent from $115.6 million to $112 million, making fiscal year 2013 the third year in a row that property taxes remained flat or declined.

The 228-page document actually includes two reports by the accounting firm of Carr, Riggs and Ingram.

The first is the Independent Auditor’s Report, which is a letter that goes through the audit requirements and discusses whether the firm had any findings and whether they had to modify their audit opinion, Hutchison said.

“(The firm) had no findings, and they issued what’s called an unmodified audit opinion, which in layman's terms means it’s the cleanest audit opinion you can get,” he said.

The second report, the Independent Auditor’s Report on Internal Control Over Financial Reporting, goes into additional details on the internal controls that the county has set up to oversee all of its financial operations, Hutchison said.

“If there were any deficiencies or if we had any problems in our internal controls it would be noted in that report, but the report itself again was clean -- there were no deficiencies,” Hutchison said. “The internal controls were compliant.”

“Our ultimate responsibility is for you to prepare your financial information, compare it as an independent third party and then issue an unmodified opinion giving you and the public comfort that the financial information in these pages can be relied upon,” said Alan Nast, lead audit with Carr, Riggs and Ingram.

Hutchison said he hopes this report will earn the county the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for the 31st consecutive year.

“I definitely plan to keep the streak alive,” Hutchison said.

The audit will be available on the Clerk of the Circuit Court and county websites. A copy of the report will be available at each branch library and the County Commission office.

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