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From the Desk of County Commissioner
Jim Martin

(12/2014) At the end of 2013 the Board of Adams County Commissioners pledged to follow a straight and defined fiscal course. We were true to that pledge and are glad to be able to share some of the accomplishments of that pledge.

Based upon our tentative 2015 county budget, the Board is please to report there is no need to raise county taxes to balance the 2015 budget. The next bit of good news is, no funds are required to be pulled from the county’s general fund reserve accounts to balance the budget. It should be noted that our substantial reserve funds contributed to our upgraded bond rating. Also the Board anticipates a 2015 budget contingency of more than $550,000 – the largest contingency of our administration. This is a major step forward when compared to the 2014 budget contingency of only $55,775.

The above fiscal good news did not come by accident or willing it to be so, but occurred through collective efforts of administration, management, and employees. Finding cost savings, whether great or small, was the focus of a special employee task force know at the Finance Review Team. This team recommended numerous ideas that proved to be prudent measures for reducing costs. I would like to add, that the 2015 budget is the first entire budget that truly reflects the hand print of this Board’s making.

A major contributing factor for maintaining a balanced budget, requiring no tax increase, was how we dealt with our health care provider’s 14% increase in renewal premiums. Rather than accept those terms, we were confident that we could find a better option than to be at the mercy of uncontrolled premiums. Through the combined efforts of our County Manager, Insurance Consultant, and the HR Department a cost effective program was developed to give us cost control now and in the future. This is definitely a case that supports the value of using consultants, especially when their expertise results in major cost containment. It is interesting that less than two weeks ago we discovered that one of the county’s largest employers looked favorably at an 11% premium increase. I say this to the credit of our team whose diligent efforts and resolve were able to contain our insurance premiums increases well below 11%. The control that we now have over our program will allow us to steer clear of the impending "Cadillac Policy" tax under the Affordable Care Act.

As a Board we must keep in mind that we have the responsibility to provide for the general welfare of our citizen through the services we provide, while being fiscally responsible. To that end, county services have not suffered as a result of maintaining a definite fiscal course. Periodically I have noticed that in certain municipalities, they reduced funding to emergency services and/or law enforcement to balance their budgets. This is not to their discredit; it is the reality of making difficult choices in a struggling economy. We are very grateful that we are not in that situation, but for the past two years our 911 funding (from the state) has been cut $400,000/year. That funding loss has been covered in our budgets for the past two years, not an easy task. We have regularly been in contact with our legislators to ensure that 911 funding restoration will be a priority of the new legislature. Basically new legislation is needed to address the huge loss of land-line telephone generated revenue.

In the face of a struggling economy we continue to make cost saving improvements to county operations. This generally requires the ability to fund large and longer term projects. We have been afforded the opportunity to make improvements through favorable credit terms and lower interest rates. This was achieved as a result of our county bond rating being upgraded to AA3. Refinancing county debt under this upgraded rating provided us more favorable terms and interest. This opportunity alone reduced our annual interest payments by $70,000.

The $70,000 savings generated was much needed toward replacement and upgrade of essential computer equipment and programs that are antiquated, not efficiently handling data files, and at risk of become inoperable. The new computer system will also provide substantial reductions in electricity use. Additional funding for this project and the replacement of aging vehicles came through a favorable line of credit that was again leveraged by our upgraded bond rating.

During the past three years there were substantial maintenance and repair costs for county vehicles that were hard to justify, other than we could not afford to buy numerous replacement vehicles. With the favorable line of credit it was financially feasible to replace vehicles. Now that we are steadily acquiring replacement vehicles, there is an amazing reduction in repair and maintenance costs.

The examples cited above show that we are on a path to realize long-term savings. This is a huge plus considering our tax base has only seen minimal increases for generating tax revenue. Based upon economic projections there will likely continue to be a sluggish economy for several more years, resulting in near stagnant increases in tax revenue. Given the cost saving that we are achieving, we have positioned ourselves to deal with the challenges of a struggling economy. When the economy does improve the prospects of an even stronger county financial position appear bright.

The board hopes that all had a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday and we wish our deer hunters much success and safe hunting. May you all enjoy the blessings of the Christmas season.

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