Given the choice between receiving good news and bad news, standard protocol is to take the bad news first. In a way, that's how the Harvey County Commission received the year-end financial report this week.
The bad news was that a cyberattack temporarily shut down the county's computer system, delaying the presentation of the financial report, but outside of that it was all pretty good news as it pertained to the 2017 budget.
While County Administrator Anthony Swartzendruber said the numbers presented are currently unaudited, he reported that the county will have those by the time it begins the 2019 budgeting process with the commission.
Even so, Swartzendruber doesn't project much change from the numbers he presented this week — numbers that continue to show Harvey County in a healthy financial position. Continuing recent trends, the report illustrated increases for the county in assessed valuation, mills levied and total revenue in 2017.
Revenue ($14,008,174 total) increased by $1.5 million in 2017 and came in over both what was budgeted and estimated. While Swartzendruber noted the majority of revenue (82 percent) continues to come from taxes, there were some fluctuations that helped add to this year's increase, including registration numbers going up in the Department of Motor Vehicles, interest income increasing by 65 percent and a 1.5 percent bump in service charges (partly due to the renegotiation of the contract to house federal inmates at the Harvey County Detention Center).
Conversely, while county expenditures ($13,500,927) also increased, they remained under what had been budgeted. Some of that inflation came from setting aside money for the upcoming law enforcement center rehabilitation project, but Swartzendruber noted the reason the county was able to stay under budget was due to fiscal responsibility among the various departments.
"Our operational savings were driven by our departments spending wisely," Swartzendruber said.
Having nearly $5.2 million in the ending balance of the general fund ($3 million over the required $2.025 million), Swartzendruber pointed out that Harvey County improved its financial position in 2017, which could be crucial with a number of unbudgeted capital improvement plan projects (i.e. the law enforcement center remodel, river bank restoration at West Park, Camp Hawk renovations, etc.) coming up and the commission nearing the start of the 2019 budgeting process.
Just for the law enforcement center alone, Swartzendruber noted the county's portion of those costs could likely total more than $1 million, illustrating just how important that budgetary standing can be.
"A good reserve here is important," said commissioner Chip Westfall.
"I think we've done a good job with the reserve we've got," said commissioner Ron Krehbiel.
Looking ahead, Swartzendruber said the schedule for the 2019 budget process remains very flexible, but the commission will have to start making some decisions soon.
By March 14, assistant county administrator Dan Bronson plans to roll out the departmental budgets and the commission will have to set out some guidelines (hold steady on spending, increase or decrease that authority) based on its goals and objectives.
"This is your plan," Swartzendruber said. "This is your road map for what we're going to accomplish in the future."
Stellar as the past numbers were shown to be, the future is the focus now and the plan is to begin that discussion pertaining to 2019 next week.