Boone County's cash on hand soars 200% in a decade

COLUMBIA, Mo 1/15/14 (Beat Byte) -- Boone County government will have nearly $47 million left over next year after accounting for all expenses and funding restrictions (page 10, 2014 County budget).  

That's up from $15 million in 2005 -- an astonishing 200% increase in the last ten years (pg. 80, 2014 County budget).    The leftover money is spread across nine different accounts, and may be one symptom of lack of public involvement in the budgeting process.   For years, Boone County has held 9 am budget hearings during the holiday season.  This year, County Commissioners voted for evening hearings to encourage public testimony.      

A chart on page 16 of the budget shows County Hall's upward monetary momentum, soaring from 2011 onward.

County government has 10 different revenue sources -- property and sales taxes, fines, licenses, permit fees, and so forth -- to pay for Law Enforcement, Children Services, Roads and Bridges, and a General Fund for most everything else. 

The free cash portion of the General Fund -- known as its "unreserved, undesignated fund balance" -- hovers around 37% of the County's annual expenses (pg. 90, County budget).  

But the 37% figure violates County policy, which mandates County government hold "approximately 17%," equal to at least two month’s operating expenditures (pg. 74, County budget).

Across all funds, Boone County's $43 million "unreserved, undesignated fund balance" is an astonishing 75% of its $62 million in 2014 expenses (pg. 10, County budget).

The County "slush fund" is part of a combined $262,562,258 in so-called "net fund balances" the County, City, and Columbia School District hold after all expenses, restrictions, appropriations, debt payments and the like are subtracted.