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Newest Elizabeth City audit shows improvement, but some financial deficiencies remain

Main Street in Elizabeth City's historic downtown district
Tyler Newman
Wikimedia / Creative Commons
Main Street in Elizabeth City's historic downtown district

Elizabeth City, N.C., has submitted an overdue audit that shows the city has resolved some issues with financial oversight, but continues to struggle with others.

The city in northeastern North Carolina has been two years behind on financial statements that are required to be reported to the Local Government Commission, which is overseen by the state treasurer's office.

The audit for fiscal year 2022 was submitted April 9. It says the city again spent more than was allocated in that year's budget, this time by nearly $2 million. Elizabeth City exceeded its budget in the previous year by nearly $1.5 million.

State Treasurer Dale Folwell said he remains concerned about the city's current budget because the most recent year's audit is still pending.

"It's vitally important when you make those decisions that you know you have your books in balance and that you can actually afford to stand by those commitments," Folwell told WUNC.

The 2022 audit outlines six deficiencies in financial oversight. There were 13 in the previous year.

"You're definitely trending in the right direction there," said Robert Bittner of the auditing firm PBMares during a city council meeting in Elizabeth City on April 22.

Bittner added he would expect more improvement in 2023's report, which has yet to be submitted.

In addition to overspending, the 2022 deficiencies include the failure to collect more than $200,000 owed to the city by the local ABC Board (Alcoholic Beverage Control), and the failure to show evidence that the city solicited three bids for contract work in its water department.

In the April 22 council meeting, Elizabeth City manager Montre Freeman said the amount due from the ABC Board had been collected.

Freeman did not respond to WUNC's request for comment, but his response included in the audit report said he's preparing recommendations for the city council that could include reorganizing the city's finance department.

Will Michaels is WUNC's Weekend Host and Reporter.