WALKER -- Cass County Auditor-Treasurer Sharon Anderson and the Cass County Board issued a joint statement Tuesday in response to a report and news release State Auditor Patricia Anderson released recently, criticizing the county for carrying a "fairly high" fund balance.
Her report indicates Cass County carried an 80.2 percent of total current expenditures unreserved fund balance.
"While not as high as many counties in Minnesota, Cass County's fund balance is fairly high," Patricia Anderson said in her news release. Statewide, fund balances ranged from 18.9 percent of yearly expenditures in Traverse County to 180.9 percent in Blue Earth County.
"It fails to take into account any local designations of fund balance and categorizes fund balance levels after only statutory reserves have been accounted for. The conclusion is flawed, misleading and out of touch with the financial planning processes used by the Cass County Board of Commissioners," the county response states.
"Local fund balance designations total $19,185,536, and includes funds set aside for long-term liabilities, capital (construction) projects, cash flow designation for major funds, grant fund carryovers, uninsured claims and the health plan self-insurance fund," the response continues.
"Along with careful financial planning for unreserved fund balances, the Cass County Board has had a state approved 10-year capital (construction) improvement plan since 1999. Cass County commissioners also believe that their 20-plus year tradition of having citizens serve on the annual budget committee has resulted in a responsible long- and short-term financial plan," the response adds.
Another measure of how Cass County is doing financially, according to Administrator Robert Yochum, is the fact Cass' 37.246 percent county tax rate is one of the lowest effective county rates in the sate.
Rankings released in 2004 showed Cass in 2003 was second only to Wilkin County as having the lowest net property tax as a percentage of indicated market value, according to Assessor Steve Kuha.
Auditor-Treasurer Anderson noted new Governmental Accounting Standards Board requirements proposed to mandate counties to book future retiree health insurance liabilities.
"I can assure you Cass County will not appear to have large amounts of idle cash sitting around once the new GASB requirements are implemented," she said.
Per capita comparisons tend to be unfavorable to geographically large counties, as well as those with a high percentage of seasonal residents. Cass and several northern counties fit that profile, Yochum said.
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