Supervisors approve $94 million surplus to benefit county, state retirement benefits

The Loudoun Board of Supervisors voted Jan. 4 to allocate a fund balance of more than $94 million to be funneled into the county’s post-employment benefits and the state retirement system.

The motion was passed by a 5-4 vote with Supervisors Susan Klimek Buckley (D-Sugarland Run), Sally Kurtz (D-Catoctin), Kelly Burk (D-Leesburg) and Lori Waters (R-Broad Run) opposed.

Supervisor Jim Burton (I-Blue Ridge), who is also the chairman of the county Finance and Government Services Committee, said the county’s budget is in “a slightly better situation now than when we were dealing with these budgets.”

The surplus is part of $18 million in reserve funding from the 2009 and 2010 fiscal budgets, $32.2 million in general fund revenues, and millions from various departments throughout the county, including the public school system, according to county finance staff.

Local and state government generally carry reserve funds in case of unanticipated expenses during the fiscal year.

The $94 million fund balance wasn’t discovered until an audit of fiscal 2010 was completed. Fiscal 2010 ended in June.

While Burton noted that the excess of funds could surprise some Loudouners,  the surplus is a result of the county being “tight-fisted and conservative.”

In a December 2010 Finance and Government Services Committee meeting, Burton said he anticipated criticism from the public on why the extra money wasn’t discovered sooner or why county leaders didn’t use the funds rather than raise the tax rate in fiscal 2009 and 2010.

County financial staff had recommended several areas where the additional money could be spent, including paying $30 million for an Enterprise Resource Planning software system. The system is included in the county’s Capital Improvement Program. By paying cash for the system, the county would free up about $50 million – money that otherwise would be paid in fees and finance charges, according to the county’s controller, Mark Withrow.

Buckley voted against the motion. Instead, she supported funneling the money toward the Capital Improvement Program, which would free up the debt capacity and deal with “our more critical issues right away.”

Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) voted for the motion. The county will always have a shortage of money, he said, but voting for the post-employment benefits and the county’s state retirement system reserve was “part of our legislative agenda and part of our everyday lives.”

Burton said he initially was leaning toward allocating the money to the Capital Improvement Program, but that upon further review he decided that “it is more difficult to come up with cash requirements.”

Staff Writer Crystal Owens contributed to this report.

Contact the writer at hhager@timespapers.com.

This article was first published by Hannah Hager on LoudounTimes.com.

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