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Bristol, Tennessee given clean audit for 2021; officials credit rising sales tax revenue

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BRISTOL, Tenn. — The Bristol Tennessee City Council received a clean report Tuesday night on the city’s 2021 annual financial report.

James Bence, who represents Mauldin & Jenkins, the firm that conducted the audit of the city’s finances, presented council with a brief overview of the report.

“This year, we presented the unmodified opinion, which is to say a clean report saying that the financial statements prepared by the financial department are materially correct,” Bence said.

The city’s general fund currently totals $18 million, with the addition of $2.3 million over the course of the year, according to the audit report. Most of that was attributed to local sales tax income, which exceeded original expectations by $1.5 million and accounted for 23% of the general fund’s revenue.

City Manager Bill Sorah highlighted the growth in sales tax over the past five years as key to the city’s continuing progress and said he is glad to again receive a good report.

“Over the last five years, we’ve had a very strong year-over-year growth in sales tax, which is a strong reflection of our local economy. … The growth in sales tax over the last year was more significant than our trends have been in recent years, and that’s in part related to a vibrant local economy and in part related to the collection of online sales tax that is also part of our revenue picture now,” Sorah said. “This is a good report. We’ve had growth in fund balance, we’ve had growth in unassigned fund balance. … We’ve been able to keep property taxes low through this period. In the end, it’s a clean audit.”

In other matters, council voted 3-0 to pay $140,000 to Troutman Pepper Hamilton Sanders LLP, the law firm representing the city in its possible lawsuit against the city of Bristol, Virginia over the continuing stench from that city’s landfill. Vice Mayor Vince Turner and Councilman Chad Keen were absent from the meeting.

Council also approved funding for improvements to the Bristol wastewater treatment plant, the sale of surplus equipment and the purchase of in-car video systems with body cameras for the Bristol Tennessee Police Department.

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