Source: Sherman Publications

Auditor compliments twp. finances, officials

by CJ Carnacchio

May 16, 2012

Oxford Township’s finances are in excellent shape based on the 2011 audit and the municipality’s auditor gave full credit for this happy news to the board of trustees.

“We have a good, healthy financial statement to present to you this evening,” said auditor Rana Emmons, a certified public accountant and partner with the Plymouth-based firm Post, Smythe, Lutz and Ziel.

“This board has done a really good job of being very fiscally conservative, watching the dollars, which is not always the case (with other communities).”

Emmons explained the township’s strong financial status didn’t happen “by accident.”

“You’ve made some very good decisions along the way and it is showing in the financial statements,” she told the board.

Once again, the township’s finances received the highest possible opinion level in an audit, the unqualified opinion.

An unqualified opinion is issued by an auditor when the financial statements presented give a true and fair view of a company or municipality’s condition, position and operations.

As of Dec. 31, 2011, the township had a fund balance of $2.698 million in its general fund, which represents a $671,803 increase over what the municipality started out with on Jan. 1, 2011.

A good portion of that increase is due to a lump sum payment of $370,918 in revenue-sharing funds that the township received from the state.

“It’s a onetime increase from the State of Michigan because of your population increase,” Emmons said. “So, they’re just catching up with the 2010 Census, which (showed) the township had significant population increase.”

Based on the 2010 U.S. Census, the township had the third highest population percentage increase (28.2 percent) in Oakland County. It went from 16,007 (including the village) in the 2000 Census to 20,526 residents when the federal count was conducted two years ago.

Emmons brought it to the township’s attention that its sewer fund’s operating income experienced a loss of $938,356 in 2011.

“I believe the board is aware of this, but I did want to call it to your attention,” she said. “It’s really as simple as your revenues, the utility billings, are coming in (at) less than what you’re being charged for the actual sewer treatment through the county.

“I know you’re aware of it, but I did want to bring that to your attention because it’s probably the most significant thing in the financial statements.”

Despite this loss, the sewer fund actually has spendable reserves totalling $4.56 million as of Dec. 31, 2011. It’s because of this hefty savings that the township board was able to adjust sewer rates over the last few years,.

In June 2009, the board voted to lower the nonmetered sewer charge, which primarily applies to residential customers, from $63 to $33.50 per REU per quarter and decrease the metered sewer charge, which primarily applies to businesses, from $20 to $17.50 per 1,000 cubic feet.

At that time, the board also voted to charge all township customers absolutely nothing for sewer use for April through June 2009, which saved residents approximately $400,000.

In August 2011, due to rising sewer costs from the City of Detroit and Oakland County, the township board voted to raise the nonmetered charge from $67 to $86 per REU per six-month billing cycle (which used to be quarterly) and increase the metered sewer rates from $17.50 to $23 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Despite the increase, the cost for residential sewer users is still lower today than what it was prior to 2009.

“The board’s made some very conscious decisions (concerning sewer rates),” Emmons noted. “You’re trying to take it easy on the residents. You’ve given them breaks along the way. But at the same time, you’re gradually increasing the rate, and it’s a nice balance. But just be aware that you can’t do it forever. I know you have your eye on it.”

Emmons was complimentary of the fact that she was able to get the audit done early this year thanks to the help and preparedness of township employees

“We’re a little earlier than usual this year – a good two months ahead of schedule,” she said. “(For) that, I would like to give credit to your staff . . .Everybody stepped up to the plate, so instead of (being here) in the middle of the summer, I’m here in the spring.”