During the Kingston City Council’s Monday night meeting, Lloyd Williamson of Williamson & Co. presented the 2012 audit. He highlighted the most important news: Kingston ended 2012 with more cash on hand than it had during the same time period in 2011. For 2012, the city had $48,682 as opposed to $18,903 in 2011.
However, the good cash news became mixed as Williamson continued his report. He said the city ran an approximate $33,000 operating loss during 2012 and only the sale of the city’s garbage truck and a lease on the city’s new police vehicle brought the general fund back into the black. All told, Kingston had $132,230 in the general fund at the end of 2012.
The financial audit itself comes five months after the deadline to have it turned into the Georgia Department of Audits. The city received an extension on the 2012 audit, and Williamson warned Kingston the city needed to submit its next audit on time.
“You don’t have a choice this year. You can’t ask for an extension this year for the December 2014 audit to be handed in to the Department of Audits. It has to be on time, by June 30,” he said.
If the city does not submit its audits on time, Williamson said Kingston would be considered noncompliant and lose the ability to apply for state grants. The city also could lose its Local Option Sales Tax financing, but he said it was unlikely to happen.
Williamson said the city should be able to meet the deadline if it works closely with its accountant.
“See, here it is November. If you get the December [statements] to her fairly quick so she can get it closed out by the end of January, there’s really no reason you shouldn’t have the audit report for 2014 sometime the middle to the last part of March,” he said.
The topic Williamson and the council discussed most, however, was the water fund. According to the audit, from 2011 to 2012 the water fund’s charges for services dropped $37,715. Revenues in 2011 are listed at $175,367, which then dropped to $137,652 in 2012. Williamson said he could not determine what caused the drop, as the two accounting systems Kingston uses will not reconcile with each other.
“The mayor and the council also last year approved a special water fund audit. We still are working, trying to get the first list of information we gave for that, and as soon as we get that, we can proceed,” Williamson said. “We’re still trying to figure out why — you have two systems in here. You have the internal ledger system and you have a billing system. They should agree, and Capable is having — you can’t get them to agree.
“When you bill out $100 to five different people, $20 on each bill, during the month those five people should come in and pay their bills. If one of them doesn’t, at the end of the month you have $20 outstanding and then you re-bill.”
Williamson said it was possible 2011 was an anomaly, but again, he could not be sure without an audit of the water fund.
City Clerk Michele Jones said the city changed out a number of water meters during the time period the audit covers. She said the old meter readings were not recorded before they were swapped out with the new equipment. Since the next reading was for the new meter only, she continued, some bills were much lower than they should have been. In addition, she said some customers were able to get the amount they owed on their water bill reduced.
“We have a lot of people in Kingston that, when you try to tell them the policy in the office, they’re going to go to the mayor and the council and get payments changed just for them,” Jones said. “... And then, changing over to this new system, a lot of people were complaining, saying their bills were too high. They didn’t use this water and this and that, and then we sent [inspectors] out to do a data profile. And we had one in particular whose water bill was high and they said they didn’t use the water, and then we just ended up marking that off their bill.”
Williamson said the council needed to give Jones guidelines or some form of direction on how she is to handle overdue customers or challenged bills.
While leaks, misread meters and altered bill payments could contribute to the $37,000 decrease in water revenues, Williamson believed it had to relate to billing from the city.
“But, here again, when you’re talking about on the cash basis, I don’t see how it could be the meter reading unless you’re just losing something, not getting billed out,” he said. “This is actual cash money that changed from one year to the next. The only way it could be the meter or the reading ... would be that the data that you’re putting out when you’re printing out the bills there’s a lot of people that’s not getting bills.”
The city council — after asking various questions about the state of the city’s Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds, whether the city had a surplus and how to close out the police department’s information technology budget — accepted the audit. The council will approve the audit at a later date. After approval, Williamson will be able to submit the audit to the state.
The Kingston City Council’s next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 2.