County Judge Joel Baker said a committee made up of county officials and certified public accountants determined maintaining 17 percent of the county’s annual budget would cover 60 days of expenditures in the case of an emergency, which he called a “standard in government.”
A 25 percent minimum reserve policy, which could cover 90 days of expenditures, was being considered. Baker said the county has up to 25 percent of its budget, roughly $17 million, in reserve now.
Baker said the balance began gaining momentum after commissioners made tough spending cuts, adjustments to its benefit and insurance in 2010. He said the continuation of cost saving measures, such as coordinated efforts to lower out-of-county prisoner counts, and conservative budgeting made the rainy-day savings possible.
“We think about the worst case scenario on spending and are conservative on revenues,” he said. “The balance goes into the reserve.”
Baker said the reserve gives the county a “safety net” in case there are emergencies such as natural disasters or revenue lags as property taxes are collected.
Mrs. Fleming said the county also has a strong credit rating and is financially stable, relative to other parts of the state and country.
Beyond the 17 percent reserve, “This is a constructed solution in search of a problem,” she said.
A grassroots member questioned court members regarding the intended use of surplus dollars in September when discussion about raising the reserve policy began.
Ernie Clark, a former city manager and grassroots member, said the group would not support money being used to fund land purchases or public works projects, including a civic center.
Mrs. Fleming told commissioners they should have short- and long-term plans to address county needs with expected cash flow rather than expanding a healthy reserve.
“Don’t hold more of our money than necessary,” she said.
Commissioner Jeff Warr said the county is in rare economic condition to have a healthy reserve and that maintaining “more, than less” is responsible planning in today’s economy.