ATLANTA - In April the Montmorency County Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 to clean out a savings account of more than $100,000, and decided to purchase a pair of new police cars and give raises to all elected officials and full-time county workers with that money. Now there is some concern the contingency fund's balance could be as low as $15,000 or less after all the numbers are added and bills paid.
Board Chairman Brock Bagget said he expects a report from Budget Officer Julie Morton soon, and that should shed more light on how much money was used out of the $100,624 the county had set aside. Bagget said he knows the move wasn't popular with everyone on the board or in the county, but said the money was there and so was the need to use it.
"We needed to put that money to work. We had four police cars that were in horrible condition, and shame on the board of commissioners for letting them get that bad," Bagget said. "We literally had deputies stuck at the station because there weren't enough cars to put them on patrol. We also needed to make sure we weren't hurting our employees who work so hard for the county. Yes, money is even more tight now, but we needed to make decisions which are good for the county now and worry about 2014 when it gets here. I'm confident there will still be money left."
Treasurer Karen Tyler said she cautioned the commissioners about closing the account and spending the money before the vote was made. She said in today's economic times, having money in reserve is prudent.
"It is supposed to be like rainy day money, and now we have approximately $3,000 left, and we are only in July in our budget year," Tyler said. "So needless to say that if that number is correct, the contingency fund money will run out, and any expenditures will have to come right from the general fund."
Commissioner Bert LaFleche isn't as confident as Bagget that whatever money is left in contingency will get the county through lean times that may lie ahead. LaFleche said fellow Commissioner Daryl Peterson voted against closing the account and the raises. He said the decision about what to do with the money should have been set aside until the voters decided on a one-mill millage proposal that will be on the upcoming ballet.
"We shouldn't have bought the cars or spent anything until we know for sure if the millage passes," LaFleche said. "Now what are we going to have to fall back on if we need it? We have a fund balance of about 10 percent or $400,000, but really that should be higher. We don't know what we are going to get in revenue sharing from the state in 2013 or if we will get any at all, so that money might have really came in handy down the road. Right now we have enough money to pay our bills and have a fund balance, but we need to start leaving the contingency alone."
Tyler agreed with LaFleche.
"We need to start being more conservative with our money and with our spending," Tyler said. "Especially with the way today's economy is."
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