Sarasota News Leader

05/17/2013

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Sarasota News Leader May 17, 2013 Page 16 $8 million could be used for unfunded capital projects that would give the county a return on investment. During the board's April 30 budget workshop, staff identified projects costing approximately $67.5 million for which the county has no money. Commissioners Nora Patterson and Christine Robinson opposed the policy change. Patterson pointed to the work staff undertook during the Great Recession to pull together about $140 million in reserve funds, which have enabled the county to afford services that otherwise would have not been possible. A report presented by Suzanne Gable, strategic and financial planning director in the county's Office of Financial Planning, showed the county had $32,525,075 in its reserve fund for budget stabilization and economic uncertainty at the start of the current fiscal year; that money represents 60 days of operating expenses. The fund for contingencies/emergencies/disaster relief had $48,787,612 at the start of the fiscal year; that represented 90 days of operating expenses. Commissioner Joe Barbetta listens to a staff member's comments during the workshop. Photo by Rachel Hackney She added of Barbetta's motion, "I think it's really not responsible budgeting …" BEST PRACTICES AND OTHER COUNTIES Gable presented slides to the board showing the Government Finance Officers Association "recommends, at a minimum, that general purpose governments, regardless of size, maintain a reserve in their general fund of no less than two months of regular general fund Gable added that projections indicated all the operating revenues or regular general fund $32,525,075 would be spent by the 2017 fiscal operating expenditures." (The emphasis was year if the board continued to use reserves to part of Gable's report.) plug budget holes as it has been doing since In a survey of peer counties, Gable continued, the recession began. she found reserve fund amounts ranging bePatterson told her fellow board members, tween 3 percent and 25 percent of operating "I can assure you $48 expenditures. million ain't much if Sarasota County has you have a hurricane I think it's really not responsible 25 percent, she added. and you're waiting for budgeting … [the Federal EmergenWhen Patterson asked cy Management AgenNora Patterson for details on which Commissioner cy] two years later to counties have what Sarasota County reimburse you." levels, Gable noted

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