By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — Even though Dunn County’s combined ending fund balance at the end of 2014 was $2 million less than the previous year, the county’s general fund balance increased by nearly $750,000.
According to a financial report from Clifton Larson Allen LLP presented to the Dunn County Board at the July 23 meeting, as of December 31, 2014, the county’s governmental funds reported a combined ending fund balance of $24.5 million, representing a $2 million decrease over the ending balance in 2013 of $26.5 million.
In 2013, the combined ending fund balance represented a $10.2 million increase over the previous year.
In spite of the decrease in the combined ending fund balance, the county’s general fund increased by $746,581, said Brock Geyen of Clifton Larson Allen.
According to the financial report, the increase in the general fund can be attributed to Dunn County applying $1.7 million of the fund balance toward expenditures in 2014. In addition, actual expenditures were $1.9 million less than planned, and revenues were $526,000 more than planned.
Overall, the county is in good financial shape and received high marks for the 2014 audit, Geyen said.
The increases in revenue for 2014 included collecting nearly $136,000 more in sales tax, collecting $172,000 more for property sales, and grants of $574,000 that were in progress for emergency communications.
Expenditures that were less than anticipated in the 2014 budget included nearly $879,000 less for the county manager’s budget, $228,000 less for emergency communication, and $257,000 less for human services.
Home health care collected $209,000 less revenue than anticipated in the budget.
The Dunn County Board approved a $74.5 million budget for 2015.
The highway department had an increase of $619,000 in reserves for 2014 while the transit commission increased by $137,000.
The Neighbors of Dunn County, the county’s new nursing home, experienced an operating loss of $755,000 in 2014, Geyen reported.
“I thought (the Neighbors) was supposed to make money?” said Gary Bjork, county board supervisor from Colfax.
The loss includes a payment of principal and interest on a loan for building the Neighbors, said Steve Rasmussen, chair of the Dunn County Board.
Depreciation also is part of the operating loss, he said.
“You’re right. It’s supposed to (make money),” Rasmussen said.
The Neighbors had expenses of $14.2 million for 2014, according to the financial report.
State law limits the amount of money the county can borrow to 5 percent of the total equalized value in the county.
Dunn County’s current debt limit is $133.6 million, and the county’s outstanding debt obligation is $43.2 million, leaving the county with an unused debt limit of $90.3 million.
The county’s debt obligation is 32 percent of the debt limit, and counties typically average between 20 percent and 40 percent of their debt limit, Geyen said, noting that at 32 percent, Dunn County is in the middle.
Several large debts were recently added to the county’s debt obligation, noted Gene Smith, county manager.
The Neighbors of Dunn County, for example, was a $23 million project, and the remodel of the old health care center for community services was about $11 million.
Dunn County has no plans to borrow more money and does not have any additional large projects planned, Smith said.
As the debt is paid down, the percentage of the debt limit that has been borrowed will go down, he said.
In 2017 and 2018, the Dunn County Judicial Center will be paid off, Rasmussen said.
Dunn County’s equalized value increased by $58 million in 2014, or 2.2 percent, compared to the state’s overall growth of 2.5 percent from 2013 to 2014, according to the financial report.
Barron County’s equalized value from 2013 to 2014 increased by 4.2 percent, while Chippewa County increased by 2.7 percent, Eau Claire County increased by 3.8 percent, Pierce County increased by 3 percent and St. Croix County increased by 6.1 percent.
In other business, the Dunn County Board:
• Recognized the following retired employees for their years of service: Paula Goodell, Department of Human Services and the Dunn County Health Care Center (40 years); Ginger Hoff, Veteran’s Service Office and the Public Health Department (33 years); Robert Moen, highway department (29 years); Joyce Hill, public health department, county treasurer’s office, department of administration, solid waste department, child support agency, and management information systems department (29 years); Keith Sundby, correctional officer in the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department (26 years).
• Approved resolutions to refinance $925,000 and $2.14 million in general obligation bonds. The refinancing will save the county $85,000.