By Kenneth Roberts
At their regular monthly meeting on Monday, the Starr County Commissioners’ Court approved the countywide audit for the 2017-2018 fiscal year that the accountant evaluated as largely favorable for the county, and also okayed a proclamation stressing the importance of obtaining a fully accurate 2020 Census count.
A report on the 2017-2018 Starr County Audit was presented by CPA Oscar R. Gonzalez of Pharr. Gonzalez found the county’s financial situation “robust.”
“It’s a good report for the county, the county is in a considerably better financial situation (than the previous couple of years,) Gonzalez said. “The payments owed to the bank were paid off in their entirety during the year. You started off with a fund balance of $5,457,000 in the General Fund and wound up with a fund balance of almost $6.8 million. Both the governmental and for-profit sides did pretty well (in 2017-18).”
Despite the good news, the accountant stressed the importance of getting audits done earlier to avoid problems with federal and state agencies. County Judge Eloy Vera echoed Gonzalez’s comment.
“We needed this (completed audit) by Wednesday or we were going to lose some funds,” Vera said. “We appreciate the effort you and your employees made to get everything completed.”
A problem Gonzalez found in the audit was that mail in payments were not opened on a “consistently timely basis” but noted that everything was still deposited in a timely manner.
“We’re confident that the county will have an even cleaner audit for 2018-2019,” Gonzalez said.”
After a question from Precinct Three Commissioner Eloy Garza concerning how much money is available for the county in case of an emergency, Vera replied that the fund balance stands at around $1.5 million.
County commissioners also approved a proclamation regarding the 2020 Census which Judge Vera highlighted after he said the previous census severely undercounted residents.
“By my estimate, the county was undercounted by 15,000 to 20,000 persons 10 years ago. We lost funding amounting to $,2000 per person,” Vera said. The commissioners then unanimously approved the proclamation urging all residents to fully participate in the Census by providing complete and accurate information.
The commissioners also approved census outreach advertising on a local radio station, Estrella 95.1. Vera noted that the advertising spots will be in phases, with January and February spots informing residents that the Census is quickly drawing near.
This article originally appeared in the Friday Jan. 17, 2020 issue of the Progress Times.