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Commissioners review audit, student numbers

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Delta County's conservative approach to financial management yielded dividends in 2014 with increasing fund balances and spending that came in below budget estimates.

The commissioners received the official 2014 audit during a regular meeting session on Monday.

The BoCC also had a discussion of school student enrollment.

The county's approach to finance is "really conservative," said auditor Pete Blair. "That's a good thing."

Blair reported the following financial results for the county in 2014:

• Taking all of the county's dozen or so governmental funds together, there was a cumulative increase in fund balances of approximately $900,000 in 2014 over 2013.

• Compared with 2013, the county general fund increased by almost 10 percent, or some $300,000.

• The county's capital improvements fund increased by $600,000. (Sometimes capital spending accounts show increases because budgeted projects weren't completed.)

• Sales tax receipts for 2014 were "slightly up" from 2013.

• Though revenues available to the county overall in 2014 were on par with those available in 2013, county departments spent about $300,000 less in 2014 than they did the year before.

Blair said, "You guys did a really fantastic job. Management did a good job, too. You stayed within your budget."

In a separate discussion item, commissioners asked Blair, a member of the District 50 school board, about student population trends.

Blair explained the district had budgeted for a loss of student enrollment slightly higher than 150 students, and it is now looking as if that will be close. "But we won't really know until the official count comes in on Oct. 1," Blair noted.

He told the commissioners the district lost about 450 students in the previous four years. A loss of 150 this year would bring the total to 600 fewer students in the last five years. Student population peaked at about 5,250.

The pupil counts are important because state funding for schools is based on the number of students in the district.

Commissioners asked if the student population decline was from lost coal jobs. Blair commented that lost coal jobs and jobs lost also from coal mining support businesses accounted for the numbers. The school enrollment declines seem to be countywide and not just in one area.

The number of students lost this year could be "the last big hit" before the economy begins coming back, Blair remarked.

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