County board looks at dollar amounts

Craig Moorhead

The Caledonia Argus

Houston County commissioners took the long view on finances last week. The board heard from treasurer Donna Trehus and finance director Carol Lapham during their April 18 evening session, including some revealing numbers on “cash book totals” from 2009 – 2016.

For example, in March of 2009, that amount stood at $6,633,224. But by year’s end it would balloon to $14,806,166. That’s because federal and state disaster aid dollars had replenished available cash which had been spent on flood repairs.

Lapham and Trehus also reported that on December 30, 2016, “pooled cash” stood at $14,991,066. By the end of March (2017) the fund held just $11,881,685.

Commissioners were briefed on how much cash the county needs to hold at any one time to meet emergencies and keep programs funded while revenues replenish from various sources. Perhaps the clearest explanation was offered by Lapham following the meeting.

“The County’s policy is to maintain 50% of the current year tax levy to cover operating expenses until tax collections are settled to the funds in May/June of the year.” she reported. “Our official policy designates 40% to 65%, but the board had decided some years back to use the 50% calculation.

“The projected income includes the revenue from all sources such as fees for services, state revenue/grants, federal revenue/grants, and other miscellaneous items like interest earned,” the director added. “The property tax levy equates to approximately 50.8% of the total revenue budget.”

For 2017, 50% of the current tax levy totals $6,470,578.

Fair Board reports in

Houston County Fair Board building committee volunteers Mark Jennings, Eldon Pohlman and Wayne Houdek also sat down with commissioners. The men reported that a replacement for the recently demolished sheep barn is on the drawing boards, but there is no set date for its construction.

The dilapidated sheep barn was removed prior to the 2016 county fair. Unfortunately, a temporary tent set up to house the animals was knocked down by the same strong thunderstorms that hurt fair events and attendance. A replacement building conforming to commercial pole shed building codes is envisioned to house swine, beef, and dairy animals, with sheep and goats moving to the Krech Arena building.

The new structure is currently estimated at 80 x 354 feet, (about 28,000 square feet) and could cost anywhere from $350,000 to $400,000. During the off-season, pens would be taken down so the building can be rented for cold storage. Anticipating the need to house large items, the sidewalls would be 16 feet high.

Pohlman said that the Fair Board (aka Houston County Ag Society) is officially becoming a 501(c)(3). That will allow the organization to apply for additional grant dollars.

Other news:

• The board met earlier in the day for a fact-finding mission at the Erickson sand mine. The stated goal of the session was to prepare for an April 25 public hearing on a setback violation. Commissioners are required to address the matter in order to fulfill a court order issued on February 7.

• A unanimous vote accepted a $5,000 federal boating safety grant. Chief deputy Travis Lapham said that the monies are earmarked to go towards personnel costs associated with Mississippi River patrols.

• The board accepted the resignation of Greta Mierau, WIC peer breastfeeding counselor, effective May first, with thanks for her years of service.

• Personnel/facilities director Tess Arrick-Krueger reported that a long-anticipated adaptive re-use study on the historic Houston County Jail building (which has stood vacant for several years) will begin “very soon.”