It’s Budget Time at Liberty County EDITORIAL
LIBERTY, May 22, 2012 – Every year starting about this time County Commissioners begin working on the county budget. This year’s budget ends in September and the new budget being worked on now starts in October.
The county faces some challenges and problems this year and certainly next year as well. As always current problems almost always have their roots in past decisions and this is no exception.
When two new faces were elected and appeared in commissioner’s court, Commissioner Charlotte Warner and County Judge Craig McNair, according to the auditor’s office, there was 18 million dollars in the fund balance of Liberty County.
Due to enormous deficit spending for the previous year and the current totaling about 9 million dollars, just in the lasts two years the county has spent half of the 9 million dollar fund balance and by the completion of this budget year in September there will be only 9 million dollars in the fund balance.
This year alone, the county has spent 4 million dollars from the fund balance in deficit spending so this year’s budget will be somewhat of a challenge for commissioners.
So the question comes up, just how much should the county keep in the fund balance realizing how difficult the money through savings would be to put back in the fund balance and restore it?
The amount of the fund balance is largely determined by bond rating. The recommendation in order to keep a good bond rating in the event you have to have a bond issue to raise needed funds is about three months of operating expenses. That number in round figures is 7 to 8 million dollars for the county. If you don’t keep that minimum amount then your bond rating is lowered and you pay more interest on bonds should you have to raise money for a special needed project?
Having all ready budgeted 4 millions dollars in deficit spending this year will commissioners do the same this year or reduce the amount of deficient spending in the budget being created now? If commissioners reduce the deficit spending in the budget being worked on now to only 3 million, to be more conservative than last year, by the end of September in 2013 a little over a year from now, there may only be about 6 million left in the fund balance and that creates the potential of threatening the bond rating. Will commissioners and the county judge take this action? It’s not yet seen just what will happen.
Certainly as costs rise for everything and with the desperate need to reduce or eliminate deficit spending on the part of commissioners and the county judge, those living in the unincorporated areas of Liberty County will suffer.
Perhaps it's time for county commissioners and the judge to look for ways to increase income through fees and collections due the county.
Perhaps not immediately but soon the county will have to bring in more income and the real possibility of a tax increase proposal may be looming on the near horizon from the commissioner’s court dominated by conservative Republicans.