Jacksonville leaders approved two audits Monday that showed the city and its water works and sewer board had boosts in revenue year-over-year and no financial discrepancies.
The two audits, prepared by private firm Edgar and Associates, show the city of Jacksonville had growth in sales tax money and the Jacksonville Water Works and Sewer Board had gains in water and sewer revenue in the 2016 fiscal year over the previous fiscal year. Also, both audits show the city and the board had no financial problems in 2016.
The Jacksonville City Council approved the annual audits during its regular Monday meeting.
Jarrod Simmons, city administrator, said the city’s audit states that because of the gains in sales taxes, the city closed out the 2016 fiscal year with a surplus instead of a deficit as had been previously projected.
“The good news is we actually came out to the good by about $147,000,” Simmons said.
In addition to extra sales tax collection, the city also saw a boost in license and permit fees, the audit shows.
“And everything in this we found to be materially correct,” auditor James Edgar said of the city’s financial statements in the audit.
Edgar said he also didn’t find any problems when he looked at the water work and sewer board’s books.
“My staff and I tried to find something, but we couldn’t find anything,” Edgar said with a laugh.
The audit shows that the board collected about $4.85 million in revenue in the 2016 fiscal year, approximately $162,000 more than it did the previous year.
“And that’s even though natural gas revenue dropped by $427,000 … a mild winter and a drop in gas prices will do that,” Edgar said.
Simmons said water and sewer revenue likely jumped in 2016 because of the drought.
Also during the work session before the meeting, Joe Weaver, CEO of RMC Jacksonville, spoke to the council about changes to the hospital in recent years and denied rumors that the facility was closing.
Weaver said the Jacksonville hospital is needed because of its high volume of emergency room visits. Last year, the hospital had 15,000 emergency room visits. Regional Medical Center in Anniston is already kept busy, with 45,000 emergency room visits last year, Weaver said.
“There’s no way we could shut that down and effectively treat those patients,” Weaver said of the Jacksonville hospital’s emergency room. “So we need to make sure the Jacksonville hospital stays viable.”
Weaver touched on changes made to the Jacksonville hospital in recent years. Administrators closed the intensive care unit in 2013 and ended OBGYN services in 2014 at the Jacksonville hospital because of high cost and lack of demand, Weaver said. Meanwhile, officials added beds at RMC Jacksonville last year to treat more elderly patients with mental health and behavioral symptoms.
“The population in our five-county service area isn’t growing, but it’s certainly getting older,” Weaver said. “We have to position the entire system for the future.”
Fire Chief Wade Buckner said in the work session that the ending of some of the services at the Jacksonville hospital required his ambulance drivers to take patients to RMC in Anniston more often than in the past, increasing costs for his department.
“We’ve absorbed some of those operating costs and we’ve not been compensated for that,” Buckner said.
Weaver apologized to Buckner about the issue and invited him to speak with hospital administrators on the matter.
Staff Writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star