2012-03-01 / Front Page

County’s Finances in Good Shape

However, concern rises over future obligations for retirees’ benefits

Lee County is no different than the rest of the country, feeling the pressure of burdens compounded by a sluggish economy. This, coupled with a new regulation, are some of the reasons why the county is taking a close look at future obligations, when it comes to its funding benefits for retired county employees.

On Monday at Commissioner’s Court, County Commissioners heard a report from Doug Thielemann, with the accounting firm Urban, Thielemann, Oltmann and Herms, LLP, and who recently completed an audit of the 2010 books. The good news is that the county’s books are in order and its finances are in good shape.

Thielemann reported that the books correctly show that the value of the County’s assets, approximately $35 million, exceeds its liabilities by $10 million, and that revenue of $12 million exceeds expenditures of $9.6 million for the year.

However, Thielemann also reported on the County’s liability for current retirees and potential future retirees’ insurance coverage, which is steadily getting larger each year. This obligation is currently over $470,000, and unfunded.

There is a relatively new regulation, passed by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board that says state and local governments must treat the costs of health and other nonpension benefits for retirees the same way they treat pension costs when preparing budgets and financial statements — that is, put the future cost of those benefits in their accounts as they are earned. Moreover, state and local governments must show the liability for those benefits that have already been accrued for past and current employees.

The GASB says this requirement applies only to the way these costs are accounted for, not to how they are paid. However, this rule will likely result in pressure to pre-pay more of these costs because it will require governments to put a number, often for the first time, on a large future liability.

The $ 470,000 reported by Thielemann represents the value of the county’s future liability for this line item in the county’s financial statement.

In other action at Commissioners Court, a contractor for the structural balcony framing repairs at the County Courthouse was selected.

After receiving the results of scoring during interviews with the potential Contractors recently, the Commissioners chose ATC Contractors from Georgetown to do the work. Each potential Contractor was graded on scope of work, including cost; proposed schedule; expertise in this kind of work; and work history. The winning bid from ATC at $201,300 is higher than the estimated cost of $155,065 included in the Grant from the State Historical Commission, so the difference of $46,235 will be the responsibility of the County. This will be in addition to the matching funds of $80,499 required as a condition of the original grant. These funds are available in the current budget and will be covered by a Budget Amendment, as necessary.

The Court also heard from Lee County Wildlife Biologist, Greg Pleasant, regarding the increasing wild hog problem and what can be done to alleviate this. Pleasant has been in contact with both surrounding counties’ personnel and Lee County personnel seeking ways to deal with this problem. He told the Court that he is working to have a contest in mid April to capture and/or kill as many of these animals as possible. The details of this have not yet been finalized, but will be publicized in the near future. Pleasant noted that some surrounding counties have already increased the bounty on wild hogs because of the increasing damage they are causing.

The Court also received the regular Reports of several county entities, including the County Auditor, County Clerk, Constable Precinct 4, and the Sheriff.

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