We are in the black again! For the second year in a row Rockland County has grown its Unassigned Fund Balance in the General Fund (a surplus). It has grown from $6.2 million in 2017 (which was the first surplus since 2006!) to just over $32 million in 2018. This is a huge step forward for the fiscal stability of our County.
This information was included in the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for the 2018 budget that was recently released by Marks Paneth, the outside financial auditors hired by the Legislature.
To you and me what this means is this; our bank account is not overdrawn, in fact it is growing, but we still have much further to go to be financially healthy. Just like you and I should have a certain amount in our savings to cover household expenses the same holds true for government.
General government accounting principles demand that we have a fund balance in the area of 10% of our yearly budget ($72 million for 2019) to truly be a fiscally healthy county. And due to the Rockland County Fiscal Stabilization Act, which was passed in 2013, we are required by law to keep 10% of our operational costs in a rainy-day fund. All this precludes any return of surplus to taxpayers.
The fact that we have managed this after having a $138 million deficit in 2014 is miraculous. And all this, despite the challenge of making an approximately $13.2 million payment on the $96 million deficit reduction bond every year until 2024. We are growing our surplus and making this payment while staying under the property tax cap, something no one believed we could do.
It should be noted that of not for our being required to pay down all that debt we inherited when I walked in the door in 2014, we would be talking about significant tax cuts.
The Report credited increased revenues, decreased spending and the continued controlling of expenses across County Government for the growth of our surplus. But I did not and could not have done this on my own. It was only with the help of our dedicated employees, department heads, commissioners, unions and the Minority members of the County Legislature that together we have been able to accomplish so much in such a short amount of time.
However, our work is not yet finished. We will continue to conservatively estimate future sales tax revenue while we hold the line on expenses. We have brought Rockland back from the brink of insolvency and will not stop until we reach full financial strength.
I look forward to continuing to work together with my colleagues from the legislature as we look to grow this fund balance through continued careful budgeting and smart compromises that will help Rockland County prosper.