By Kendal Groner
The findings of the most recent audit on the Town of Unicoi’s finances were presented during the Monday, May 21, Town of Unicoi Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting.
Travis Bishop, audit manager with the accounting firm Rodefer Moss, said the Town of Unicoi was given “the best they could give,” despite a few minor issues he said the town is working to correct.
“There were a couple of issues that we noted as material weaknesses during the audit,” Bishop said. “I feel like they are doing a very good job to address these issues.”
The first issue he noted was the result of the town’s inadequate documentation for adjusting its journal entries. The second issue he found stemmed from the lack of an employee compensation policy.
“We noted employees were allowed to acquire compensation time and carry that out for an indefinite period,” said Bishop.
He recommended the town establish a compensation policy and change payroll procedures to where time sheets are approved by employees’ supervisors to prevent incorrect pay.
The last recommendation was related to the segregation of duties, which he said is a common finding.
“A town this size will always have those issues,” he said.
Bishop reported that tax revenues were stagnant and down $11,000 from the previous year, with no growth in revenue from sales, beer or liquor taxes.
However, he said total revenues actually exceeded expectations and exceeded expenditures by $170,000.
Alderwoman Kathy Bullen inquired as to what the increase in revenues could be attributed to, and Bishop said it was due to grant money and debt service, with approximately $341,000 in grant funding.
Alderman Jeff Linville made a motion to approve the financial statements and supplementary information of the audit. His motion was seconded by Bullen before it unanimously passed.
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In other business, the board discussed matching funds for the ARC POWER Grant, which is being used for the Town of Unicoi Buffalo Valley Connector Trail and Bike Route. The connector trail runs from the Pinnacle Fire Tower trailhead and goes down to the Town of Unicoi Visitors Center and across the street to Maple Grove Restaurant. The bike trail follows Unicoi Drive down to Erwin Town Hall.
The grant provides about $300,000 and requires $128,815 in matching funds for a total project cost of $428,815.
“We don’t need to be spending $128,000 on a trail,” said Bullen. “We’re putting the cart before the horse. As far as I’m concerned, we need somewhere for people to spend their money and we need another school resource officer.”
Alderman Roger Cooper was also concerned that this was not the best use the town could find for the $128,000 and vocalized his frustrations with not having a school resource officer at Unicoi Elementary.
The resolution authorizing the town to provide matching funds was passed, with Mayor Johnny Lynch, Linville and Doug Hopson voting in favor. Bullen and Cooper voted in opposition.
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The board unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the Town of Unicoi to apply for a USDA Rural Business Development Grant. The grant will be administered through the Mountain Harvest Kitchen and provides rural areas with monies for entrepreneurial training programs. The grant does not require a local match and covers the costs for entrepreneurs to attend various training programs.
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The board amended the agenda to hear from Lee Manning, director of Mountain Harvest Kitchen, about a new fee schedule for the kitchen. The new fee schedule would waive the initial consultation charge, require only a $200 facility deposit and a $50 application and training fee.
The rate for non-member hourly rental would be $25 per hour, $15 for members hourly and $50 hourly for exclusive use.
A new business package would be offered at $300 a month for up to 25 hours, a basic membership at $400 a month for up to 25 hours, and $750 a month for up to 50 hours.
The new fee schedule was unanimously passed by the board.
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The board also approved the Town of Unicoi’s proposed budget for the fiscal year 2018-19. Under the proposed budget, revenues total approximately $2.2 million and expenditures approximately $2.7 million. Revenue from local taxes is estimated at $848,000, and the proposed debt service totals $356,219.20. The portion of the budget dealing with the Mountain Harvest Kitchen projects that the venture will break even, with both proposed revenues and expenditures of $452,552.47.
The budget was approved with Lynch, Hopson, Linville and Bullen voting in favor. Cooper voted in opposition.