County cash budgeted, but $3 million still available
Public perception is not quite on the money when it comes to how much county cash is available, county clerk Tina Spencer told commissioners Monday.
Only $3 million of the $14.7 million of unencumbered cash reported in the county’s 2016 audit is actually available, according to a document prepared by Spencer.
“Those are actual, true cash balances that can be spent,” she said.
The cash from that $14.7 million that cannot be spent includes $8 million already committed to other expenses and another $3.5 million kept in reserve to cover three months of expenses. (Discrepancies in adding up the total are due to rounding.)
Ending cash balances have grown for the past 10 years, except for 2012, when the capital improvement fund was depleted by over 50 percent, according to the document.
Much of the available $3 million is found in the road and bridge fund, where an influx of $800,000 federal exchange money contributes to an available $1.3 million.
The largest portion of the $8 million earmarked for other expenses comes from $5 million saved in capital improvement for the 330th Rd. project, which could start within two weeks. The jail bond fund has another $1.6 million.
Spencer’s document came a week after the audit report was presented, and more than a month after economic development directors Randy Collett and Anthony Roy advised commissioners to use extra cash instead of raising taxes at the Aug. 21 budget hearing.
In between, rural fire district chiefs have asked for help funding a radio purchase project.
Spencer said once the $8 million intended for other projects is subtracted, the county does not have enough cash to cover a full six months of expenses.
“We do have cash reserves of about $3 million sitting there, but even if you add that to the three-month goal, we’re still six months or less of cash sitting there,” she said.
As for capital improvement, Spencer said the fund goes through a cycle.
“We build that up, we spend it on a project, and then we build it up,” she said. “And that’s the way it was designed
Spencer suggested developing a written, long-term plan for money in the fund. No written plan exists for the $5 million in capital improvement, even though it is intended for road projects.
Spencer said accountant Scot Loyd of Swindoll, Janzen, Hawk & Loyd can put together a presentation for board members and the public to explain the budget and county financial statements. Loyd presented the 2016 audit report to commissioners Sept. 18.
Commissioner Kent Becker said a presentation would add clarity for the public.
Commissioner Randy Dallke said there have been questions about cash reserves since the audit report.
“I sat through and listened last week and I heard the same numbers that comes through as when we collect accounts, but the paper seemed to have a different opinion,” Dallke said. “They didn’t listen to we just have enough to operate on three months besides our road projects and things like that.”
Last modified Sept. 28, 2017