The Barton County Commission heard the county’s annual audit report Monday morning. There was good news and news that gave commissioners pause.
First, Amber Littler of the accounting firm Adams, Brown, Beran and Ball, gave a clean opinion. “That is very good for the county.”
The county is also debt free, the commission was told. It finished paying off the last of its bond obligations. All in all, “the county is very well managed,” Littler said.
In addition, this marked the first year that the audit was done without the county having a financial officer on staff. Instead, County Administrator Richard Boeckman stepped in to help. “This is a large project,” Littler said.
Both Littler and Dreiling praised the cooperation from Boeckman, County Clerk Donna Zimmerman and other county employees for their cooperation.
Then the other shoe fell.
The county started the 2011-2012 budget year with a reserve balance of $15,489,000, had a revenue of $20,731,000, but spent just over $24 million. This left an ending reserve balance of $12,076,000.
“You have used some cash reserves,” she said. The declines came in the general fund for county operations and the employee benefit fund for health insurance and retirement funding.
“You have not raised the mill levy for a number of years,” she said. But, with a difficult budget year taking shape, raising taxes may be a necessity, or risk cutting expenditures that could jeopardize services.
“The county has to get its reserves up,” the accountant said.
Commissioner Don Cates agreed for the need to rebuild reserve funds, but said the county did retire its bonds during the past year. This removes one financial obligation from the county’s shoulders and frees up some money.
The county also does more “pay-as-you-go” business instead of taking out leases or making long-term payment agreements.
In the management letter ABBB issued to the county, there were a few minor items – some uncollected debts in the Health Department, some unrecorded receipts in the Treasurer’s Office and a small negative balance in the Beaver Township account. But, all had been or were in the process of being corrected.
Three resolutions approved Monday also cleared up some of the issues: Transfer of funds from health coverage trust to employee benefits ($275,000 for 2011 and $200,000 for 2012); transfer of funds from general fund to Teen Court ($3,000 each for both 2011 and 2012); and designating the contact person at the county for property and casualty insurance.
In other business, the commission:
• Approved a motion allowing the county to partner with the City of Great Bend on the improvements of Railroad Avenue between Main Street and Washington Avenue. Venture Corporation will do the work which will cost $116,466.50. The county will cover 70.3 percent and the city 29.7 percent, based on how much of the streets falls in each jurisdiction.
The commission signed off on the partnership when it met Feb. 6. The original plan called for a cold-mix overlay installed by the county Road and Bridge Department, but the hot-mix option, although more expensive, will last longer. The cost of the project was originally about $103,000.
The street will maintain its concave shape, which allows for water to pool down the center. To replace that with a raised crown down the center would cost over $1 million, said County Engineer Clark Rusco.