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Sarasota Wednesday, Apr. 24, 2019 3 years ago

County commission pleased with status of mid-year 2019 funds

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County staff presented the annual mid-year budget update, painting county funds in a positive light.
by: Samantha Chaney Staff Writer

Just as the county approaches the upcoming budget cycle for fiscal year 2020, staff appeared before commissioners on April 24 to provide a mid-year update on recent trends and activity of the current 2019 budget.

In total, the financial glass appeared more than half full, with revenues rising and overall spending falling below original projections.

According to Financial Management Director Kim Radtke, the budget update included calculations made up through March 31, 2019, and showed general major revenue up by 6.5% above original budget projections for the first six months.

Plus, she said, overall expenditures were only at about 34%, meaning the county may be halfway through the fiscal year, but it has not yet spent even half of the allotted money set aside for disbursement.

Departmental expenditures also fell below 50% and were reported to be “operating within budget and parameters.”

Commissioners complimented staff members on the report, affirming they believed this not only reflected well on the county but forecasted a continued trend of growth and abundance for future fiscal years.

“Looking forward, it looks like we’ll be in great shape as we build the budget for fiscal year 2020,” Commissioner Al Maio said. “And if we don't raise our millage rate this year, we'll have had 21 years where [our millage rate] wasn’t raised — it was actually reduced. If we flat-lined on our millage rate, we would have taken $750 million out of taxpayer pockets, and we didn't.”

“I can’t wait for headlines to read that Sarasota County is being managed well from a fiscal standpoint,” Commission Chair Charles Hines said.

To have come out of a recession and now be at a point where the administration is rebuilding its economic uncertainty fund, Hines said, bode well for the entire county and its residents.

Similar recession-related comments were made at a recent 2020 budget workshop, where financial staff members noted that the county’s general fund may retain a small surplus of money by 2024 that hasn't been seen since before 2008.

Commission members’ positivity regarding the budget may also stem from a sense of relief, as the board found itself walking a financial tightrope in recent years when dire financial predictions prior to 2018 had officials searching for ways to prepare for sharply lower revenues.

Now, however, they appear to be looking toward 2020 with a sense of enthusiasm.

“Anybody who tells you we’re going bankrupt? Obviously, we’re not,” Maio said when he heard of the $170 million in total gross total reserves. “Anybody who says our credit rating is bad? Obviously, it’s improving.”

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