For a sixth time in seven years, Union County has collected record revenue.
According to information from the Union County Auditor’s office, in 2018 the county generated $23.94 million dollars. In 2017, the county saw revenue of $23.2 million, a record at the time.
County Auditor Andrea Weaver had set the 2018 revenue estimate at $23.37 million. She has set the 2019 revenue estimate at $24.19 million.
The record revenue has led to an increase in carryover funds. According to the auditor’s office, as of Jan. 1, Union County has $20.17 million in carryover revenue. This number is up from $15.1 that the county began 2018 with.
Based on 2018 expenses, Union County could have nearly funded the entire year’s operations with carryover funds. According to the auditor’s office, in 2018, the county spent $20.6 million for operations.
Assistant County Administrator and Budget Officer Letitia Rayl said the carryover number is somewhat inflated because the county has borrowed money for some projects and the money is already earmarked.
County Administrator Tim Hansley said that while the number seems large, “compared to our exposure, it’s not a huge number.”
“We have some huge road projects we are going to need,” Hansley said.
Rayl added that in 2019 the county is scheduled to purchase cruisers for the sheriff’s office, make repairs to buildings and address some ditch concerns.
She explained that the county needs to save money when it can, to prepare for a time when it cannot. She said that as expenses increase and revenues flatten, the county will not have the ability to set money aside.
County sales tax revenue of $10.8 million exceeded projections by 2 percent, but Rayl said it was lower than officials had hoped.
“We are still seeing growth, which is better than a loss or even flat,” Hansley said.
Hansley said that once the carryover money is spent, it is gone.
“We do kind of horde money for the unknown as well as for the projects we do know about,” Hansley said.
He said it is better to have carryover than not have enough when the money is needed.
“We are not putting the money away to not spend it,” Hansley said. “We want to make sure we don’t come up short.”
Hansley said that carryover is necessary for the county’s credit rating. He said county officials talked with the bond rating service, Moody’s, on Thursday. He said there is a fine line to walk because if the carryover isn’t enough, the agency “will penalize us.”
“They want us to hedge against the unknown,” Hansley said.
Hansley said that while the auditor’s office is projecting revenue at half a million dollars more than 2018, the budgeting process has been difficult.
“The 2019 budget will be relatively tight, relatively flat,” Hansley said.
He said there were a lot of requests that did not make it into the budget. He said the auditor just recently increased her estimate by about $1 million to reflect the expected increase resulting from raising the county’s conveyance fee.
Hansley said the county has benefitted from being, “very stable.” He said the community is growing and the commissioners have been “good stewards.
“I think that will continue,” Hansley said.
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