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Most of $9M surplus being used to cover Butler County budget needs

| Saturday, July 12, 2014, 3:42 p.m.

Butler County ended 2013 with a $9 million revenue surplus, but most of that money isn't sitting in the bank — it's being used to keep 2014's finances on track, county Controller Ben Holland said.

About $5.3 million of the surplus was carried over to balance the 2014 budget, and $2 million of the $9 million surplus is being put into the county's rainy-day fund, which can be used to plug holes in the budget for emergencies.

Holland said the county shouldn't count on carrying over surpluses from one year to another to balance budgets.

“What my concern is, in this next budget process, is how we can trim the budget so that the budget stands on its own,” he said. “What happens if we end this year and we don't have anything left over? It's a slippery slope.”

Holland presented the county's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report on Wednesday morning to the commissioners.

A report from the commissioners says the county's long-term debt decreased by $2.1 million during 2013 to $46.6 million.

According to the commissioners, county revenue decreased by $28 million from 2012 to 2013, but still exceeded expenses.

The drop was a result of changes to the Health Choices Fund, a county-based human services program that is now managed like a business instead of a public program.

The program no longer requires county tax dollars to run, Holland said, but it doesn't bring money into the county, either.

“You can't say, ‘This is a business-type activity, it should be making money.' It just means it's generating money outside the county,” Holland said. “No county dollars go into the fund for health choices anymore. It's all state and federal dollars.”

Overall, the worth of taxable property in the county increased by $22 million to $1.7 billion.

“If we don't have that, the only other way to grow the economy is to raise taxes,” Holland said.

The communities in the southwestern part of the county had the highest increases in assessed value.

Holland also released the annual county pension report on Wednesday. It found that the pension system, which provides a benefits pension plan to all county employees, is in good health and that the required annual contribution has been met every year since 2005.

The report showed that pension funds invested in the stock market and other places were profitable year over year, so the county did not have to put in as large of a sum to meet the required annual contribution.

The pension fund increased in value by $27 million in 2013 from the previous year for a total value of $171.9 million.

Corinne Kennedy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7823 or ckennedy@tribweb.com.

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