While the numbers may not be official until the auditors' reports are finalized (sometime in the spring), Harvey County Director of Finance Dan Bronson stated that all signs point to the county being in a good position while presenting the 2018 year-end financial report to the commission on Monday.

"Of 105 counties, there's probably at least 100 counties that wish they had our financial position right now," Bronson said.

General fund revenues and expenditures for Fiscal Year 2018 both come in over what was estimated. The former exceeded the latter, though, meaning the fund balance continued to grow and Harvey County ended the year with $4,900,812 in the general fund.

Revenues grew in part due to a larger number of delinquency taxes being collected in 2018. While the commission attempted to decrease the mill levy in 2018, it was noted that due to a drop in assessed valuation that number did go up slightly. Expenditures, meanwhile, came in higher than estimated because of employment growth and a larger number of fund transfers — as a number of capital outlay projects among county departments could not be completed in 2018.

Looking at expenditures specifically, Bronson noted the patterns of general fund spending in 2017 and 2018 were nearly identical — with 54 percent going towards public safety, 32 percent towards general government, six percent on health welfare, six percent on culture/recreation, etc.

"This is really unchanged in how we spent our dollars from last year," Bronson said.

Each department had some ups and downs that seemingly balanced out, and some even saw increases in their funding balances for 2018. Overall, one big transfer that Bronson pointed out as impacting the expenditures was related to the law enforcement center remodel. While that action was planned for 2019, he said cost expectations for other projects forced the county to move that up in the budget schedule.

Additionally, Bronson highlighted the impact Health Department Director Lynnette Redington has had on the county's current position given the assistance she has been able to secure through grant funding. Meanwhile, County Administrator Anthony Swartzendruber pointed out income from investments is at the highest level its been since he started with the county — illustrating clearly the solid ground the county is on from a financial standpoint.

"We've maintained our financial position in 2018," Bronson said. "It's enabling us to meet future commitments, both planned and unplanned."

Future commitments are the current focus for the commission, as planning for the 2020 budget is set to begin shortly. Bronson noted he expects numbers to stay around the same for 2019, but the county will have to weigh the importance of some major needs while balancing the budget moving forward into Fiscal Year 2020.

Projects to be considered include renovations to the Harvey County Courthouse, the second phase of the law enforcement center improvements and work on Hesston Road. The later work alone could cost millions of dollars, not to mention the other annual projects the Road and Bridge Department takes on, but Bronson again credited the county's financial status for even allowing the commission to consider such work at this time.

Commissioners noted there are some state funding changes that could impact future projects that the governing body and administration should stay abreast of, as they could help the county maintain its status quo. Staying at the level the county is at is something the commission was all for as the 2020 budgeting process gets set to start up in March.

"I think we're in good shape," said commissioner Ron Krehbiel, "and (we should) stick with it."

In other business, the county commission:

Shared condolences on behalf of the county for employee Wenda Black (and her family) regarding the recent loss of her husband.
Learned that Groundwater Management District 2 recently made its stance known on the Wichita Aquifer Storage and Recovery project, coming out in opposition to the project. With that, there was consensus among the commission to move forward in support of GMD 2 and have Swartzendruber draft a letter.
Was informed that administration is working on a new lease for the Health Department for use of the building at 215 S. Pine St., as the current lease will expire in January 2020 (and costs could increase by five percent for the next five-year term).
Heard an update on numerous bills still being considered by the State Legislature, with county clerk Rick Piepho reporting on numerous items regarding election procedure. While some bills the commission had been alerted to previously have died, commission chair Chip Westfall noted anything can happen during the approaching turnaround week.
Received word that two elections will be held shortly regarding bond issues for USD 423 (Moundridge) and USD 206 (Remington).
Approved Resolution 2019-5 for the sale of excess equipment, a van previously utilized by the Transportation Department.
Accepted the four bids received for a new truck for the Parks Department, with staff to review and make a purchasing recommendation.
Proceeded with plans to amend Harvey County Parks regulations, namely eliminating the seasonal camping pass for primitive camping, adding more regulations for remote-controlled vehicle usage and some other minor language changes.
Heard an initial report from county appraiser Della Rowley and deputy appraiser Michele Lowery comparing 2018 and 2019 values, with both appraised and assessed value up about five percent across Harvey County. It was noted official numbers will be reported to the commission no later than June 15.