By Tony E. Windsor

In January 2022, CPA Thomas Sombar gave what was to be his last operational audit report to Laurel’s Mayor and Council. Sombar, of Sombar & Company CPAs, has been the town’s longtime auditor and he told the council that he would be retiring and the town would need to seek a new audit firm.

The search for a new firm, coupled with the death of Laurel Finance Director Mary Intracaso last month, has resulted in a delay in the completion of the most recent, July 2022 – June 2023 audit. However, the town’s new audit firm, Lank, Johnson & Tull, CPAs, Seaford, appeared before the Laurel Mayor and Council Monday night, Dec. 18 to present the findings of the July 2021 – June 2022 audit.

Brandon Tull, Audit Director for Lank, Johnson & Tull, CPAs, gave a positive review of Laurel’s financial landscape and reported that the town was “very solvent,” as of the close of the audit year in June 2022. 

Likewise, in the previous year, Sombar also credited the town for having a very favorable financial forecast. In his report, Somber stated that the town’s revenue for 2021 was about $759,000 more this year compared to 2020. This largely due to a number of state grants that have been awarded to the town. At the same time, the audit indicates that the town’s expenses declined in 2021 by about $200,000 compared to 2020. 

In another bright financial finding Sombar told the council that Laurel’s overall assets listed at $36.9 million, are up over 2020 figures by almost $728,000. A welcome finding in the annual audit is that while showing net assets of $22.7 million, over $2.7 million of that is defined as unrestricted. Sombar said these unrestricted assets represent an over 165 percent increase over the $1,014,774 from the previous budget year.

In what he termed a brief “elevator speech” Sombar gave his professional opinion of the town’s 2021 financial picture. “I think almost everyone understands cash and the significance of cash,” Sombar said. “The fact that the town’s cash went up over $2 million is outstanding. There are some negatives, but I believe the positive financial evidence far outweighs any negatives. It really makes 2021 very hard to improve on. This has been a very positive financial year for the town.” 

Piggybacking on Sombar’s comments from the year previous, the town’s new auditor gave a similar review for 2022. Tull said the town experienced a 13 percent increase in its overall net position, indicating a strong financial year. 

In addition he said the town’s total revenues rose by 17 percent, this largely driven by the receipt of grant awards. “Despite this increase in income, the town managed to keep its expenses relatively stable compared to the prior year,” he said. 

The town was awarded $1.67 million in grant funds from the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and used $806,443 of this funding in 2022 for eligible capital projects. Tull explained that the remaining $860,250 was recorded as “Deferred Revenue” and will be available for use in future expenditures. Lank, Johnson & Tull, CPAs is currently working on the town’s June 30, 2023, audit after the town changed audit firms earlier this year.

Town Manager Jamie Smith said the auditor is currently working with the town conducting the 2023 audit. She said the town is seeking a new finance director and Lank, Johnson & Tull CPAs has agreed to assist with candidate interviews. Smith also expressed appreciation for the support of the town of Georgetown, whose finance department is helping town staff navigate the financial software system, which is the same system used by Georgetown.