The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

January 23, 2014

Water and Sewer Authority board approves ‘clean’ audit

By Kim West
kwest@athensnews-courier.com

— The Limestone County Water and Sewer Authority board of directors unanimously approved on Thursday the utility’s audit for fiscal 2013.

Accountant Cecil Armstrong of CDPA Inc. in Athens presented the audit, which LCWSA General Manager Byron Cook described as “clean” and clear of any negative findings.

For the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2013, the audit showed the Authority with a $385,081 decrease in revenue from water sales but also a $367,987 decrease in operating expenses.

Armstrong reported that for the first quarter of the current fiscal year, the utility has $140,000 more in revenue when compared to the first quarter of fiscal 2013.

He also said LCWSA has an A-plus credit rating from Standard & Poor.

“I know it’s kind of a perplexing year, but it wasn’t a bad year,” Armstrong said. “And (the Authority is) off to a good start this year.

“It was a good audit and management did a good job considering (a decrease in revenue).”

He said three factors should be considered when reviewing the Authority’s finances in fiscal 2013, including the interest rate on non-operating expenses rising to 2.8 percent from about 2.1 the previous year, the refinancing of two bonds and having to count sewage plants on county school property as expenses, rather than assets.

Within the audit, CDPA completed two tests to determine if the utility was generating enough money to pay its debt service and passed both, according to Armstrong.

The Authority, which refinanced two bonds last year to take advantage of lower interest rates, currently has $69.9 million in debt service.

Cook said the utility is not in a position to go into further debt at this time, but added there are no immediate plans to take on any more bonds to finance projects.

During the meeting, first-year board member Ty Smith asked if the audit would have contained negative findings if operating expenses had not been slashed. Cook confirmed this and said it would have caused “negative numbers,” or more expenses than revenues.