County may have to dip into reserve funds

County may have to dip into reserve funds by David Lias The mil levy rate in for the county government�s general fund in the year 2000 will be slightly lower than this year.

But it appears that the Clay County Commission is going to have to cut its highway budget, and take a dip in its cash reserves to make ends meet in the general fund.

�We need to do some cutting and I�m wondering if we should be doing it in our highway department if we�re only allowed to increase the total budget by $68,000,� County Auditor Ruth Brunick said.

Highway Superintendent Art Leifgen has requested an increase in his department�s budget that may put the total county budget over the top of funding limitations set by commissioners.

Brunick said more funding should be available in 2000.

�Next year we�re going to be getting a lot more funding from license plates and other sources, and I don�t think we�ll have to worry about it if we have to supplement. The money will be there, because at the end of this year, we�re going to dump whatever�s left into his (Leifgen�s) 201 fund for next year, so this is going to be the only year I think you�re going to see a problem.�

The county�s 201 fund is used for all county highway and bridge construction.

Brunick said the county�s 2000 general fund budget is $3.329 million. The county will tax to receive $2,493,495 in revenue for the general fund.

�I have it figured that we are going to have to supplement the budget by $500,000,� she said.

Brunick told commissioners that the county�s average balance of reserve funds in the bank is approximately $2 million.

The large infusion of reserve monies shouldn�t be a problem, she said. The county shouldn�t have to be so reliant on its reserve funds in the future because of extra money it will receive from higher fees for such things as license plates.

�Usually we put in $400,000, the last year we put in $435,000,� Brunick said. It�s not uncommon for counties to include reserve funds in their budgets, she said, because legally, they can only keep a certain amount � 40 percent of the total budget � in reserves.

The county�s mil levy on its $2.493 million of taxes for 2000 will be 5.87. Clay County�s 1999 mil levy is 6.03.

Commissioners have already held one budget session. Judging by statements made at Tuesday�s meeting, they may devote more time to the budget at their next meeting.

�Let�s spend some time finalizing that thing,� Commissioner Paul Hasse said.

State law requires counties to have their preliminary budgets completed by Sept. 1. The budget must be finalized by Sept. 30.

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