San Juan County auditor says the county is “in good financial shape”

“Overall, I would say the county is in good financial shape,” said San Juan County Auditor John Fellmeth in a report to County Commissioners on April 16. “So far, we have not had any major or unexpected conditions that have impacted our financial situation.”
Fellmeth went through more than 60 pages of financial documents with the Commissioners.
“At this point in the year, revenues are in line with budget projections, and expenditures are the same thing,” he said. “As the year moves on, we will have more information.”
Commissioners have expressed concern about financial matters.
In an April 2 Commission meeting, Commissioner Willie Grayeyes asked for a report.
“How far down are we,” said Grayeyes on April 2. “Six feet? No one wants to talk about it, but everything we do gets back to it. The real question is, are we broke? We need to take a closer, refined look at the budget.”
The financial documents include detailed information on balance sheets, budget reports, and expense and revenue reports. The information is generated each month and compares the month to previous years and to the budget.
Fellmeth said the reports are sent to the Commissioners each month.
In addition to the reports, Fellmeth discussed a number of overall trends using a graph. The overall trend shows total cash and investments are roughly steady in recent years.
“Total cash and investments in March are $35.37 million,” said Fellmeth. “This is up $569,731 from February and up $687,969 from last year at this time.”
Fellmeth described the total cash and investments as “money in the bank.”
The General Fund account is on a downward trend. Fellmeth showed that the fund was approximately $7 million five years ago and was under $2 million last month.
“That is a $5 million decline over the past five years,” said Fellmeth.
Fellmeth explained that legal expenses were higher than the budget anticipated in recent years. That may explain the major portion of the fund decline.
It is expected that Federal Judge Robert Shelby will rule soon on legal fees for the voting rights lawsuit. Attorney Steve Boos, who led the legal team that sued the county, has submitted up to $3 million in legal fees.
If the county is required to pay the fees, the General Fund does not currently carry that amount.
It has been suggested that the funds may need to come from the Tax Stability trust fund, which was created by Commissioners as a “rainy day” fund back in the 1980s. The Tax Stability fund currently has a balance of more than $7.5 million.
In addition to the General Fund, Fellmeth also reported that the health fund and the library fund have also declined in recent years.
A common theme of the declining funds, according to Fellmeth, is that they are property tax supported funds.
Fellmeth told Commissioners, “You do have some options” with these funds, but added that when addressing property tax supported funds, “you also face some constraints.”
Overall, some of the county funds have remained steady and others have grown.
There are a variety of funds, including road funds, capital funds, health, ambulance, library, landfill, and tort liability.
Fellmeth explained the county is constrained by law in the type of investments that can be made.
“There are two major areas of investment: the Public Treasurers Investment Fund (PTIF) and Zions Bank Wealth Management Fund,” said Fellmeth. “The county has funds in both.”

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