We sold 10 million dollars worth of certificate of obligations (C.O. Bonds) yesterday. I have been telling every group and everyone who I can about my reasoning for doing this. As you probably know, I have been telling you about our projects that are essential to the operation of our growing county government. They are the: Justice Center – $10 million; 48 bed Jail expansion – $7 million; Animal Control – $1.6 million; JP3 Remodel – $800,000, Sheriffs office remodel – $150,000; Tax Office remodel – $150,000 (My estimates. We wont know until we get confirmed General Contractor quotes). These are ongoing projects that are all very important. I consider the Justice Center and jail project to be of prime importance.
When I took office we were blessed by the previous actions of the County Government to have saved a lot of the excess revenue created by the oil field boom. But we have seen the shrinking revenue for the county create shortfalls. There is about $16 million in un-encumbered reserves, but it is shrinking. We have a good budget set for January 1 that is a more cautious budget (which I discussed in a previous column concerning the cuts we have made). We do not have enough reserves to pay cash for the Justice Center and the Jail expansion. To do them both we have no choice but to go to bonds. It is a good time when interest rates are very low. And, these buildings are 50 year + buildings. Heck, our present jail was started in 1982 and is still sound, and the Courthouse was built in 1912. If we build right, these will last also. The bonds are 20 years in payout. An important fact is that the county is about to pay off some old bonds, with the final payment being in 2019 and then well have no debt. We can offset much of the cost of the new bonds with the savings of paying off the old ones.
We will pay out of reserves (cash) for the Animal Control, JP3 Remodel, S.O. remodel, and T.O. Remodel. We will be revenue neutral starting in 2017 and should sustain our reserves above $12 million. I do not believe good money management is to deplete our reserves no matter how good the cause. I will not do that. For your reference our total county budget is approximately $30 million, but much of that is offset by state payment of Judges salaries, Adult probation salaries and other state grants and revenues. We also manage all of the money for the 81st and 218th Judicial District which I explained in a previous column.
The State Constitution and Texas Local Government Code assigns the job of County Financial Officer to the County Judge and I take that very seriously.
Thanks for listening. We want you to be proud of your county government.