KCBD Investigates: Questions on Lubbock County discretionary budget

KCBD Investigates: Questions on Lubbock County discretionary budget

LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - As Lubbock County’s discretionary funds have been earmarked for certain projects, questions have surfaced on what that could mean for the county’s bottom line.

According to the 2018 fiscal year report, the total discretionary fund balance is more than $27 million, or roughly 25% of the county’s budget. That’s a number County Commissioners say they want to be at.

KCBD spoke with County Commissioner Bill McCay and Chad Seay to explain the numbers. “We went from $38 million about four years ago. Now we’re down to around $26 million, but $12 million of that is earmarked for other stuff,” said Commissioner Seay.

According to Seay, that ‘other stuff’ is a list of 13 projects that have been pre-selected by the court. If that set-aside-cash for those projects is taken out of the total, it brings the unassigned fund balance to $13 million.

“I’m digging in the budget and finding out where we can find this extra money because, in my opinion, we need a 25% savings like an emergency fund which for that right now with our budget would be $26 million so my ultimate goal is to have $26 million in an emergency fund that is not touch. It’s not part of fund balance and not earmarked,” said Seay.

County's earmarked funds.
County's earmarked funds.

Commissioner McCay says County Commissioners have always earmarked different projects, but they started writing it down and including it in fund balances a few years ago.

“For transparency. We want to communicate to the public everything we’re thinking. Everything that’s that we can think of and put it in print so the public can see and understand that we don’t have this wad of money sitting over here,” explained McCay.

Seay remains concerned. “My worry is we’re going to have this stuff all allocated and we’re going to have a major disaster. God forbid if a tornado came through here or something. Yes, we could potentially get funds from the state or back from the federal government, but it takes years."

McCay says funds can always be uncommitted if the money is needed. “It would just take a commissioner’s court meeting to release these funds, some or all of those funds."

He says Items committed are there to be on commissioner’s radar to eventually get done. “I mean, these are our tax dollars, and we don’t want to sit on too much fund balance. We don’t have too much of our money just tucked away over here. We want to be transparent to say, here’s some real life things that we are going to have to address as a county because state law or whatever reason. We’ve got to address them and so we’ve earmark these funds, and that some may come to fruition and may actually be used for those and then some might just disappear because it wasn’t that expensive.”

If the money is moved back into the general fund, other projects would be placed on hold.

Budget discussions for 2020 are already underway and will continue through August. The county’s fiscal year begins October 1.

Copyright 2019 KCBD. All rights reserved.