Smith County Commissioners vote to raise general fund minimum balance

Published on Tuesday, 12 September 2017 17:50 - Written by

CORY MCCOY, comccoy@tylerpaper.com

Smith County increased the minimum rate for its general fund reserve.

The Smith County Commissioners Court voted Tuesday to raise the General Fund Reserve Balance minimum from 17 percent to 25 percent.

Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran said the move would see the minimum set closer to what the county has been practicing.

In its recently passed 2018 fiscal year budget, the county approved maintaining a 31 percent budget reserve, or $34.5 million, across all of its funds. The General Fund, which funds most of the county’s operations, has $22.4 million in reserves, according to the budget.

Commissioners approved pulling $3.5 million out of reserves in 2018 to get started on the first year of a long-range road plan. The funds would cover maintenance-type items such as seal coats and rebuilding oil dirt roads. Another $750,000 was pulled out for the purchase of new voting equipment. 

Smith County Auditor Ann Wilson said the purpose of the reserve is to ensure the county has the cash on hand to pay bills during the first quarter of the fiscal year before property taxes come in.

Wilson said the Government Finance Officers Association recommends counties keep at minimum enough cash to cover two months, or 17 percent, of operating expenses. A 25 percent ratio would give the county a three-month cushion, officals said.

Potential drains on the general fund can include natural disasters, road and bridge projects and health insurance needs, she said.

Raising the minimum reserve also makes the county more attractive when it comes to bond rates, according to Moran.

The county has called for a $39.5 million bond package for road and bridge repairs on the Nov. 7 ballot. Early voting will run from Oct. 23 to Nov. 3. The last day to register to vote in this election is Oct. 10, according to the Secretary of State.

The bond would cover phase one of a proposed $100.1 million road plan.

Grassroots America – We The People previously stated its opposition to the move.

GAWTP Executive Director JoAnn Fleming said there was no justification for raising the minimum fund balance.

Fleming feels the county should to tap into the reserve fund before it asks taxpayers for more money.

Wilson presented county reserve levels of comparable counties including Gregg, Midland, Brazos, Montgomery and Anderson.

Those counties have minimums set by policy anywhere from 10 percent in Montgomery to 35 percent in Williamson. Actual fiscal year balances ranged from 29 percent in Jefferson to 109 percent in Midland.

Other business:

- The county will go ahead with the replacement of a partially collapsed culvert on County Road 381. The work is expected to take two to three weeks, and no detours are expected. Although the culvert is technically a private drive, the county believes it has assumed liability for it due to past work. The replacement will cost $5,030.

- Commissioners also accepted several donations of medicine for the Smith County Animal Shelter.

- The county also approved receipt of federal funds from the Texas Transportation Commission’s 5310 Grant program to assist with the Smith County Voucher Program and its Mobility Management programs.

The county was awarded $183,000 for fiscal year 2018, an increase from the $150,000 for fiscal year 2017. Some $48,000 of the amount will go toward Mobility Management. The programs helps provide transportation services to diabled and eldery residents. The programs help residents in the Urbanized Zone Area, which is not covered by Tyler Transit or the East Texas Council of Government’s GoBus.

NDMJ Transportation has been a partner in providing its services to residents who acquire the vouchers, according to officials. Beginning this year, Smith County will have to bid out for the position of Tyler/Smith County Area Mobility Manager, which was previously awarded to NDMJ because the grant is now being awarded directly to the county instead of NDMJ.

TWITTER: @TMT_Cory

Faith Harper contributed to this report.

 

 

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