Strausburg: Wicomico in strong financial position

In the wake of telling Wicomico County Council members he will request $226,000 to cover a budget shortfall, County Administrative Director Wayne Strausburg clarified the county is still in “a very strong financial position.”

At the work session last week, Strausburg told council members he will  formally make the request, to have money taken from the county’s contingency fund, at the second meeting in October. The contingency fund contains money needed for unexpected expenses or emergencies.

The money Strausburg will request will be used to pay for workers’ compensation for volunteer firefighters, as required by state law, and to pay $86,000 to Tyler Technologies, the company that provides software for the county.

“We are going to have to pay (workers’ compensation) premiums … we are going to need that appropriation to cover those premiums. There’s no other way, unfortunately,” Strausburg said.

Strausburg said while he and County Executive Bob Culver are “very unhappy that the budget errors occurred, and I certainly concur that they should not have occurred, I do, however want to add some context that I think will be helpful.

“Notwithstanding the 2017 error in budgeting for principal and interest payments, the legally required payments were made and were made timely. Those payments were absorbed by the total county general fund appropriation. Further, our 2017 unaudited results show that nearly $1.8 million will be added to accumulated, unassigned county fund balance.

“This is our sixth consecutive year of budget surpluses. The surpluses are the result of higher than anticipated revenue, principally driven by income tax receipts and consistent spending savings.

“At this time Wicomico County has the highest level of fund balance as a percentage of revenue of any County in the state. This strength is a cornerstone of our high ratings by Wall Street’s credit rating agencies. The public should rest assured that we are in a very strong financial position,” Strausburg told the Salisbury Independent, adding circumstances that lead to the errors have been addressed internally.

This week, County Council President John Cannon said the county is “very fortunate the county is in a good financial position but I can only hope errors to this degree don’t repeat themselves.”

“When talking about   those kind of numbers, it’s certainly does create an impact on Wicomico County. If the county weren’t in such great financial position could have had a negative impact,” he said.

County Councilman Marc Kilmer said no money is missing, but there isn’t enough money in the budget to pay the bills. “It wasn’t prepared correctly. It should not have happened,” Kilmer said.

Still, he credited Strausburg for taking it before the council and not hiding it.

“Unfortunately, it happened this way but we can deal with it,” he said.

“We’re certainly not pleased,” Strausburg said.

At the Sept. 26 work session, Strausburg said budget errors were discovered by Finance Director Dawn Parks. She was preceded by former Finance Director Leslie Lewis, who was fired by County Executive Bob Culver in May, a little more than two years after being hired.

 

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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