Two-time Shawnee County Commission candidate Carol Marple questioned Monday whether the $33 million in cash reserves the county maintains is too much.
She suggested taxpayers could benefit from the county shifting even $1 million toward deferred maintenance needs or discontinued services.
Commissioner Shelly Buhler replied that reserves “go awfully quick” when the county is forced to deal with a disaster, and flooding is the primary hazard.
“We are one disaster away from using those reserves,” Buhler said.
Marple spoke during the public comments part of Monday’s commission meeting, where commissioners Buhler, Bob Archer and Kevin Cook heard Kristen Hughes, of Kansas City, Mo.-based RSM, make a presentation about an audit it conducted of the county’s finances.
After hearing the report, Archer said the commission has been accused of being financially conservative and consistently building its reserves, adding, “I guess we’re guilty.”
Archer appeared to be making reference to questions raised at the commission’s Aug. 17 meeting by Marple, who won the Republican nomination for the commission’s District 1 seat before losing to Buhler, an independent, in the 2010 and 2014 general elections.
Archer noted one statement in the audit report said: “The County is exposed to various risks of loss related to torts; theft of, damage to and destruction of assets; business interruptions; errors and omissions; employee injuries and illnesses; natural disasters; and employee health, dental and accident benefits.”
“We manage our risks,” Archer said, “and that’s why we’ve increased our reserves significantly, and that’s why we manage our business conservatively.”
Marple then went to the lectern during the public comments portion near the end of Monday’s meeting, where she asked the amount of the county’s reserves and learned they totaled about $33 million at the end of last year.
Marple said she had no problem with the county’s maintaining a reserve fund but wanted to know how high its balance would be allowed to go. She asked if it might be a good business decision to dedicate some current reserves to meeting deferred maintenance needs or restoring discontinued services.
Archer and Buhler responded that disasters such as tornadoes and floods can quickly deplete the county’s reserve funds.
Before leaving the lectern, Marple said, “Most of us buy insurance for that, and it takes away some of the risk.”
Also on Monday, commissioners:
- Voted 3-0 to increase by $9,379.92 the amount the county is paying to replace a bridge over Stinson Creek on S.E. Tecumseh Road, bringing the final cost to just under $260,000. The expenses are being paid using revenue from a countywide, half-cent sales tax.
- Voted 3-0 to enter into a contract through which the county will pay $26,000 and Friends of Ward-Meade will pay $26,000 to replace a fence at Ward-Meade Botanical Garden, 124 N.W. Fillmore.
- Voted 3-0 to acknowledge the need to fill a vacant clerk’s position for Auburn Township. Buhler said commissioners would accept applications for two weeks. Those interested in the seat are asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Heard the Kansas Expocentre’s Justin Gregory say Sunday was “quite the dog and pony show” at that facility, as it hosted a dog show and a team roping event.
Contact reporter Tim Hrenchir at (785) 295-1184 or @timhrenchir on Twitter.