Every year, the Wright County Board of Commissioners deals with budget issues that include carrying over unused portions of county budgets from one budget year to the next – often referred to as turnback dollars.
At its Jan. 28 meeting, the county board decided to approve all of its carryover items from the 2019 budget into the 2020 budget as a way to carry forward funding for projects that were scheduled to be completed in 2019 that carried over into 2020. In doing so, the board reviewed several department requests to roll over the unfinished business of 2019 and early 2020 into one blanket resolution of budget amendments.
“The amendments that are before you, many of them are based on events that have occurred, but there may be things that were identified to be completed in 2019 and were budgeted in 2019, but, due to unforeseen circumstances, they’re not going to be completed until 2020,” Assistant Wright County Administrator Sue Vergin said. “Some of these you were aware of and there may be a couple that you haven’t seen.”
Commissioner Mike Potter added that some of the circumstances for carrying over budget items from 2019 were expected months ago and others were due to circumstances beyond the board’s or a department head’s control.
Potter felt that the most efficient way to handle the multiple department requests to carry forward money was to review the justification and proceed with forwarding the funds into the 2020 budget.
“Almost all of these were already in the 2019 budget,” Potter said. “These aren’t new expenses with the exception of one or two. We basically have two ways of doing this. One is to turn the money back as unused and re-budget a new line item in that department’s 2020 budget. The other is to adopt an amendment to carry over that unused amount into their 2020 budget. We’re not talking about new money or additional money in almost every instance. If we rolled these into turnback dollars, we would be putting them back into budgets anyway. This is a cleaner way and it’s a transparent way of showing where the money went and what we’re doing with it.”
The biggest item was $2.095 million that was part of the county’s 2019 Classification and Compensation Study. It was known that money would be carried over to implement the study, which was approved in December – after the preliminary 2020 budget had already been approved. The money was earmarked to pay for wage adjustments that were factored in once the study was finalized and employee wages were determined.
Other carryover dollars were approved for the following projects:
$47,000 carried over from the Site Improvement Budget to complete installation of a new 800 MHZ tower next to the Law Enforcement Center.
$35,000 for crack sealing and surface sealing at the county fairgrounds. The item was approved by the board in November after it had already approved its 2020 draft budget, which could not be raised after initial approval. That amount would come from turnback dollars.
$20,800 carried over from the 2019 administration budget for the purchase of a vehicle for the county’s motor pool. Due to deadlines with the state contract, the vehicle wasn’t able to be ordered until December and won’t arrive until February, when the payment will be due.
$124,100 carried over from the Information Technology Department for a series of items that were delayed due to a change in IT director that came mid-year and were held off until the new director could take over and prioritize which projects should be completed first. Several of the items or projects are in the process of being completed. Even with the carryover, the IT Department turned back more than $242,000 of unused budget dollars.
$65,000 in additional funding of the Wright County Economic Development Partnership. The increase in the county’s allocation will come out of the Professional Services line item.
$68,900 carried over by the Parks & Recreation Department for a design-build contract for Bertram Campground support buildings and a consultant service contract for civil engineering, construction documents/plans and bid documents. The campground project wasn’t bid out until January and the consultant will have bid documents ready for a February bid opening.
$750 carried over by the recorder’s department for a training seminar that wasn’t used in 2019.
Carrying over budget items happens every year, but, given the number of them this year and the circumstances surrounding them, it was determined that one blanket resolution to approve all of them at once was the best approach and would provide a better budgetary paper trail.
“In life, things don’t always go as planned, which is the case in this situation,” Commissioner Mark Daleiden said. “You try to get things done in one year and it’s impossible because life happens. That’s what these are doing. It’s making sure that we follow through with what we said we were going to do and when we were going to it.”