Commissioners respond to candidate’s accusations
To the Editor:
The Moffat County commissioners would like to respond to the concerns about the Moffat County budget that were raised by candidate Darryl Steele at a recent candidate’s forum. Mr. Steele questioned the county’s management of the Road and Bridge Reserve Fund. We disagree with his comments and would like to take this opportunity to establish that your elected officials and the county employees responsible for county finances take their duties seriously. The following is an explanation of state and county requirements of the reserve funds and the current status of the Road and Bridge Fund.
According to the report of our independent auditors, the purpose of the Road and Bridge Fund is “to account for the County’s share of State revenues that are legally restricted for maintenance of highways and roads within the County’s boundaries.” State law does not permit local governments to budget a deficit and requires the county to hold 3 percent of the current year’s expenditures in reserve. In 2001, 3 percent of the current year’s expenditures was $785,000.00. This is the total amount that Moffat County is required to maintain in reserve funds. The independent audit conducted for the year 2001 revealed that Moffat County had a fund balance in excess of $6 million at the end of 2001. This does not include the hospital’s fund balance. Moffat County is in compliance with state law.
The county commissioners have adopted two resolutions regarding fund balance reserves to insure that the county has sufficient reserves in the case of an emergency. These resolutions require the general fund to maintain a $2 million reserve and the Road and Bridge Fund to maintain a $1.5 million reserve. Neither fund is required to be all in cash. Inventory may be included.
The estimated 2003 ending reserve fund for Road and Bridge includes a cash balance of $485,040.00 and inventory of approximately $800,000.00 in gravel and approximately $300,000.00 in parts. This satisfies the county’s requirement and surpasses the state’s requirement of 3 percent of current year expenditures. Road and Bridge budgeted $6.67 million in current expenditures in 2002, 3 percent of $6.67 million is $200,100.00. The actual cash balance in the Road and Bridge fund equals 7 percent of expenditures, more than twice the state requirement. In response to Mr. Steele’s concern, in an emergency situation, such as a severe winter, the current cash reserve would provide sufficient funds for a crew of 50 employees to work 40 hours of overtime per week for eight weeks.
Mr. Steele also expressed concern that the commissioners were asking county departments to cut expenses for 2003. All levels of government, including Moffat County, are affected by the economic downturn throughout Colorado and the United States. It appears that budget cuts will be necessary to insure the county’s continued financial health. It is part of the budgetary process to review the proposed budget and make cuts as necessary to produce a fiscally responsible budget.
County funds also fluctuate. As of October 19, 2002, the current cash balance for the Road and Bridge fund was $881,896.00, well in excess of the $485,040.00 budgeted for 2003. At one time, the Road and Bridge Department held over $4.5 million in reserve.
This was based on the Board of County Commissioner’s decision to allow this fund to accumulate enough cash for road paving projects. The county subsequently used $2.4 million of this reserve, plus a Department of Local Affairs grant of $1.8 million, to pave County Road 57. This project is completed. The fund will now begin to grow again until there is sufficient money accumulated to pave another county road.
Despite this concern, and given Moffat County’s dependence on property tax revenues, we believe that the wiser and more fiscally responsible course is to follow the recommendation of our independent auditors. This recommendation was to maintain adequate funds in our reserves to address an emergency situation, rather than to maintain the minimum 3 percent reserves required by state law.
The Moffat County commissioners invite any concerned taxpayer to contact them at 970-824-5517 with his or her input or questions.
T. Wright Dickinson, Les Hampton, Marianna Raftopoulos,
Moffat County commissioners
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