St. Mary’s to Close Fiscal 2014 with $22.9 Million Fund Balance

According to a recent draft end of year audit, St. Mary’s County will close Fiscal 2014 with an unassigned fund balance of $22.9 million. Commissioners will meet over the next several months to determine how it should be allocated.

As reported by The Enterprise E-Newsletter,

Elaine Kramer, chief financial officer for county government, usually advises the commissioners not to use surplus dollars to fund recurring costs like jobs, because there is no guarantee that extra money would be available again. Fund balances are often used for one-time purchases such as for equipment or adding extra payments to an employee benefit trust.

Asked about that $22.9 million available in crafting the next budget for fiscal 2016, Commissioner Todd Morgan (R) said, “I’m sure we’ll figure out ideas to do.” However, “I’m a firm believer you must have fund balance,” he said.

Having those unassigned dollars allowed the last board of commissioners to forward-fund the cleanup in the wake of Hurricane Irene in August 2011. That effort cost $3 million, and the surplus meant the commissioners didn’t have to wait for federal assistance to start the recovery, Kramer said.

Fund balance has also been used to forward fund school projects.

According to the audit by Murphy and Murphy,

…St. Mary’s County government “will continue to take a conservative approach to revenue estimates, given the significant uncertainty surrounding the federal budget and the general economy — continuing to focus on efficiency measures, both as a part of budget adoption, and also throughout the operational year.”