- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The St. Mary’s County government has a surplus of $23.5 million in unassigned funds, according to an audit report of last year’s budget.
In addition to the unassigned fund balance of $23.5 million from fiscal 2013, there is another $30.7 million in surplus funds that are already assigned for such things as building projects and retiree health benefits.
The current $23.5 million fund balance includes $17 million in accumulated funds from the previous four years, the audit report said.
Last year the county treasury was expected to receive $199,915,536 in revenues and brought in $200,659,671, the audit showed, just $744,135 more than planned.
The commissioners intended to spend $199,215,570 in fiscal 2013, but only spent $192,708,566, a difference of $5,202,502. St. Mary’s County government’s total debt at the end of fiscal 2013 was $93.7 million.
Elaine Kramer, chief financial officer for St. Mary’s County government, told the commissioners Tuesday that a plan will be made soon on how to allocate the new surplus, similar to the plan made last year during budget preparations. The prior fund balance made it possible for the commissioners to fund $10 million to accelerate a wholesale renovation of Spring Ridge Middle School.
In general “we plan the use of fund balance for non-recurring costs,” Kramer said.
Commissioner Todd Morgan (R) noted that revenues from property and income taxes remain flat. And just because a federal budget was recently passed, he said, “there’s going to be a huge effect still in St. Mary’s County” as more is cut from federal defense spending.
Because tax revenues collected by the state don’t come back to counties in a timely fashion, Kramer said, any impact from federal spending cuts already made won’t be known until later.
“It takes us a long time to catch back up,” said Commission President Jack Russell (D).
“The things we counted on in the past, we just can’t count on them anymore,” said Commissioner Larry Jarboe (R).
This board of commissioners and others “tried to create budgets with sustainability,” said Commissioner Cindy Jones (R).
With St. Mary’s County government well ahead in its obligations to set aside money for retiree health care and other costs, called Other Post-Employment Benefits for budget purposes, Jones pointed to the board of education’s share. “We really need our board of education’s budget to reflect an honest ... contribution,” she said, and it can’t rely on county government’s surplus funds.
“That’s something we really need to hold their feet to the fire to,” she said.
St. Mary’s County government has prepaid $20 million in its retiree benefits obligation, said Tim Murphy, partner of Murphy and Murphy Certified Public Accountants. The sheriff’s office retirement fund is also “overpaid,” another auditor said.
“Other counties have deficits. You can toot your horn a little bit on prepayment,” Murphy said.