GRITS

VIDALIA MAYOR Buz Craft (pictured right) read and presented a plaque to Pattie Reed Jones, Operation G.R.I.T.S. president, for her dedication to soldiers serving overseas. Also pictured to the left was Mark LaFrancis, president of Home With Heroes Foundation Inc. who sponsored the award. (Sentinel photo by Joe Curtis)

Auditor’s listed no finding in Vidalia’s annual audit and will now submit their report to the Louisiana Legislative Auditor.

Debra Moak, Vidalia’s municipal accountant, told aldermen about the positive audit in their regular monthly meeting Tuesday.

Municipal audits provide information about a town’s financial reporting quality, internal control system and compliance with laws and state requirements. 

If a town has any findings or exceptions, state government may use the disclosure as a reason to reduce funding to the municipality.

“Auditors have completed their fieldwork and have submitted their audit in time before the deadline,” Moak said. “There were no findings, and once approved by the Legislative Auditor, Silas Simmons will present their report to the council.”

Mayor Buz Craft attributed the clean audit to town employees and their hard work.

“Independent auditors have completed their rough draft with no findings,” Craft said. “That is unheard of in any budget statewide. We should be proud of that. I want to thank Debra and all of her departments for working hard and being good stewards of town money. Everybody is doing a fantastic job. Can’t say enough about her, her staff and all of our workers for being very frugal and working with what they got and still providing the best services.”

Also included in Moak’s report, she reported Vidalia had $11.49 million “cash in the bank,” including restricted funds of $8 million in the hydro fund and $1 million in the sales tax fund as of November 2021.

November assets totaled $41.4 million while total liabilities amounted to $10.2 million. Fund balance was $31.3 million.

Revenues were 32 percent under budget due to “timing of revenue collection and lower than expected hydro royalties for the (first) five months of this fiscal year,” Moak said.

Town employees do anticipate hydro royalties to “catch up” with the increase in production from the rising Mississippi River levels with the largest increase in royalty beginning in January.

Total expenses as of November were at 42 percent of the budget. Personnel costs were at current budget levels; however, materials and supplies and other services were higher than budget.

Meanwhile, Pattie Reed Jones, founder and president of Operation Gifts Raised In The South (G.R.I.T.S.), was presented a Home With Heroes Foundation Inc. plaque by Mark LaFrancis and Craft. 

LaFrancis is president of Home With Heroes Foundation Inc.

Since 2010, G.R.I.T.S. has sent thousands of gift boxes to soldiers overseas during the holiday season. Each box is handpicked with snacks, toiletries and other items.

“Pattie’s G.R.I.T.S. human army spends countless hours collecting, sorting, packing and mailing the boxes,” LaFrancis said. “All the while, Pattie’s joyful spirit and great smile inspires her troops.”

Recently, Jones organization has expanded to sending King Cakes “giving them a taste of Mardi Gras,” LaFrancis said.

Home With Heroes Foundation Inc. is a non-profit, Natchez-based organization dedicated to helping veterans and their loved ones.

Programs associated with the organization are Wreaths Across America, renewal retreats, free clothing bank, honor rides to the National World War II Museum and emergency aid.

Additionally, aldermen approved occupational licenses to Mr. B’s Seafood LLC, Marling Properties and Marling Surveying. Aldermen also approved a sign application to Mr. B’s Seafood LLC.

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