The Woodward News

May 9, 2013

Fort Supply financial situation continues to improve

Rowynn Ricks
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — FORT SUPPLY--The financial situation of the town of Fort Supply has vastly improved over the past year, according to the town's accountant.

In her monthly update to the town board members during their regular meeting Tuesday night, CPA Meredith Meacham-Wilson explained that Fort Supply has gone from being "over $200,000" in debt to soon possibly owing less than $10,000.

Since being hired as the town accountant in March 2012, Meacham-Wilson has been dedicated to trying to help the town pay off its outstanding bills.

She guided the town to implement utility rate changes, which she said has helped lead to a net profit of $164,000 in the town's Public Works Authority account as of April 30.

It is this increased revenue from improved utility collections that has helped to offset the town's debt, with Meacham-Wilson using the extra funds to cut checks to vendors.

Currently the town still has around $36,000 in overdue bills listed in its records, she said.  However, she explained that number may be inaccurate.

"Around $28,000 of that are from accounts that are listed as over 90 days past due.  But that isn't from 3 months ago, but rather invoices that were past 90 days before I started as your accountant. So they're from almost a year and a half ago," Meacham-Wilson said.

This $28,000 is listed as owed to more than 40 different vendors.

However, the accountant said that "as of right now, none of those vendors have asked for payment on those amounts."

She said this means that "the information about the amount we owed might have been incorrect because maybe it was based on estimates or maybe the invoice was put into the system twice."

So Meacham-Wilson said she thinks the town may be able to remove those debts from its records.

"I'm looking at in June with being comfortable with writing those debts off," she said.  "And what does that mean?  It means that we're looking at less than $10,000 that you still owe."

The majority of that remaining amount is owed to the accounting firm RS Meacham CPAs & Advisors for whom Meacham-Wilson works.  As of April 30, the town's accounts payable summary listed $7,750 due to the CPA's firm, which is a sign of her dedication to helping the town pay off its other outstanding accounts first.

In addition to making extensive headway on paying off debts, Meacham-Wilson said the town of Fort Supply is also seeing other positive financial indicators.

For example, she said the town is continuing to receive "strong sales tax collections."

She noted that as of April 30, the town had already surpassed the amount of sales tax collections that had been budgeted for the current Fiscal Year, which continues through the end of June. The FY 2013 budget for sales tax revenue was set at $26,000, and the town has already collected $29,297 in sales taxes.

While not as significant as the income from the utility rate increases, she said the extra $3,000 in sales tax collections still means more revenue for the city, "and that's a positive."

Overall, Meacham-Wilson said the town is in "an impressive place" financially.

"And it's because you've made those hard decisions as a board," she told town trustees.  "I commend you all and urge you to don't stop."

Because if the town is able to keep the progress going, she believes that its financial situation will only continue to improve.



PROPOSED BUDGET INCLUDES EXTRA MONEY

In fact, in presenting the town board with her first proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2014 on Tuesday night, Meacham-Wilson said she saw their positions improved enough to be able to possibly include pay raises for city employees within the almost $500,000 budget.

In addition, she said the proposed half a million dollar budget included "giving every department a little additional funds for maintenance and operations."  This is to help use the town's projected increased revenues to begin meeting some of the maintenance needs that have gone unmet while the town has worked to get out of debt, she said.

Furthermore, the accountant said that "one big thing" she added to the next year's proposed budget is an additional $30,000 in capitol outlay funds to help with the town's ongoing water system improvement project.

As a sign of how far the town has come financially, Meacham-Wilson only budgeted $250 for capitol outlay in the town's current estimate of needs for this Fiscal Year.

However, she told the town trustees Tuesday that $30,000 was "a number I felt comfortable with the town being able to handle" next year.

And that is based on "conservative" revenue projections based on 90 percent of revenues received this year, she said.

But in terms of the already impressive utility revenues, Meacham-Wilson said that "because we've only had the rate increase in effect for half of this year, next year we should actually blow those numbers out of the water."

The accountant said the budget she presented Tuesday evening was a preliminary budget intended for the town board's review, so no vote was taken on the matter.

She said that according to state statutes, the town must allow for public input in the budgetary process.  This means that before the trustees can approve the FY 2014 budget, they must first hold a public hearing to allow for comments on the proposed budget, which must be published at least 5 days prior to the public hearing date.

So in compliance with state regulations, the Fort Supply town trustees voted to set a June 12 date for a public hearing to discuss the FY 2014 budget.

And while the specifics of the budget may not yet be fixed, the trustees made one thing clear about what they would like to see in the final approved budget: salary increases for town employees.

Trustee Donna McCaslin said that she feels the town staff members "deserve raises and I think we need to put it in the proposed budget."  Her fellow board members said that they agreed, but did not approve or mention any specific percentage amount for the salary increase.