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County finances in order

Douglas County earned a clean opinion on its finances, according to its auditor, Wipfli CPAs and Consultants.

The auditor issued three unqualified opinions concerning the county's basic financial statements, government auditing standards and uniform guidance for state and federal grants.

The unqualified opinion means the county's basic financial statements are prepared in accordance with generally-accepted accounting principles, has internal controls in place to make sure the county's financial statements comply with all laws and regulations, and state and federal grant programs have internal controls to ensure compliance with monitoring of grant programs.

"Overall, a passing grade as far as the opinions on your financial statements," Rob Ganchow of Wipfli said. "An unqualified opinion is where you want to be."

The county's statement of net position — assets and liabilities — decreased by about $850,000 this year, Ganchow said. The big changes are related to the Wisconsin Retirement System, numbers that can fluctuate quite a bit from year-to-year depending on where the market is at year-end, he said. Deferred outflows related to the WRS went down about $1.8 million, which was over $2 million in 2016, and was down to about $981,000 for 2017, he said.

Douglas County provides retirement benefits for its employees through the Wisconsin Retirement System.

"The WRS is still one of the best in the nation," Ganchow said. "It's in the top five and has been for many, many years ... this year, they were at 99.12 percent funded, assets compared to liabilities. You don't have to go too far south — one state — and look at where their retirement system is sitting and the stress that is putting on all the public-sector organizations down there."

The county also invested about $2.1 million in capital assets such as roads in 2017, according to Ganchow. Long-term debt is also down by about $3.7 million in Douglas County because of scheduled payments. The county's current net position increased by about $2.5 million this year.

Overall, Ganchow said the county had a good year in its governmental funds, particularly forestry.

"Your bottom line is going up on a long-term basis and that's good," Ganchow said.