Finance director Dan Bronson delivered good news to Harvey County commissioners this past week in his year-end assessment for 2019.

The county remains in a stable position at the start of the new year, Bronson said.

Revenues and expenditures didn't change much from 2018 to 2019, with the former staying relatively similar in terms of both total revenue and the breakdown of areas where revenue was collected, though Bronson said changes were made that helped with collection of real estate taxes. While expenditures were up 6% in 2019, Bronson said that was done intentionally as the county tried to spend down funds.

As in years past, where the county's money was spent was mostly unchanged and fell in line with the county's strategic goals: 55% on public safety, 31% on general government, 6% on health and welfare, 6% on culture and recreation, and 2% on community development. Bronson said that will remain the case as the county commission gets ready to start budget planning for 2021.

"We'll have those for you at the forefront to consider when you go through that process," Bronson said.

Commissioner Chip Westfall questioned if there was a way to break out what percentage of expenditures are state-mandated and what is driven by they county. County administrator Anthony Swartzendruber said for that reporting, the budgets would have to be structured differently and the data subset doesn't currently exist.

Bronson said the county had $4.7 million in its 2019 ending balance, but those numbers are subject to change as the county is being audited. Revenues exceeded expenditures in 2019 in part thanks to the detention center, which was under the first full year of a renegotiated contract with the U.S. Marshals for housing federal prisoners.

Taking all that into consideration, Bronson said, the county enters 2020 in good standing.

"Harvey County maintained a healthy financial position in 2019," Bronson said. "I would say that we're pretty lucky to be in the financial position we're in. It's taken a lot of work to get to this place. I'm happy to be in this position and not on the other side."

"I think we're pretty secure, folks," Westfall said.

Bronson said it is important for the county to be solid financially so the unreserved fund balance can go toward capital improvement plans with a number of large projects on the upcoming schedule.

Among the major projects the county is looking at are improvements at the Newton City-County Airport, a courthouse remodel and modifications to Hesston Road that may start as early as next year.

"Our unreserved fund balance gives us the opportunity to approach it from a variety of different angles in terms of annual budget, grants, fund balance, even the potential for bonding," Bronson said. "That project looks like it could be close to $4.5 million. While we're in a good financial position, we know there are some looming challenges on the horizon."