BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
MONTROSE – After hearing from the Lee County Economic Development Group in January, funding from the county was brought up again as part of a regular budget workshop.
At Tuesday’s meeting of the Lee County Board of Supervisors, Supervisor Ron Fedler suggested the board reduce it’s funding for LCEDG to $100,000 to help offset a deficit in the 2017-2018 budget.
According to preliminary budget numbers, the county is staring at a $1.7 million deficit in revenue vs. expenses in the 2017-2018 fiscal year. With the deficit figured in, the county will have an ending fund balance of $10.4 million at the end of that fiscal year, down from $12.1 million at the end of FY 2017.
Supervisor Ron Fedler said the board hadn’t really discussed what avenues were available to help reduce the budget.
“I know we haven’t discussed it a lot.. ways of reducing this deficit and I’ve been going over this for the past week or so and I know it’s not a lot of money but we give $210,000 to economic development every year and we have for many years,” Fedler said. “They said a year ago in February they reached their 2018 goal of 1.2 million and they reassessed their goal to be $1.8 million. The way I understand when it was first started when Lowell Junkins was in there, the goal was someday for this to be self-funding and no tax payer dollars being put into it.”
“I think we’re getting a lot closer to that goal and I was just wondering if we shouldn’t look at reducing that to $110,000 to kinda make the the deficit not look so bad.”
Supervisor Gary Folluo quickly jumped to the defense of the LCEDG, telling Fedler that the $1.2 million is over five years.
“I don’t think that would be advisable myself,” Folluo said.
Supervisor Matt Pflug said the group did a nice job of presenting their case to the supervisors on Jan. 20 and the board should stay the course.
“I think with the program they presented to us, they’re on the move in a productive and positive way and I was very impressed with their presentation to us the other day,” Pflug said. “I think we should stay true to the $210,000 at least for a year. To pull away now… I don’t know if that’s a good idea.”
Fedler said it didn’t have to be an all-or-nothing scenario, but at some point the county should pull back and let the group stand on its own.
“I’m not saying we don’t do any funding. They’ve got money to work with but we put it off a year and then another… when do we say we don’t need to put as much money into it,” Fedler asked. “They’re doing a good job from the presentation, but they seem to have the funds and a lot of the stuff they spend, especially on the website, has been spent. Now it’s just a matter of people hittin’ on (the website) and those expenses won’t be as much in the future. That’s just a suggestion.”
Board chair Rick Larkin said he, too, disagreed with pulling back on the funding.
“I think that when they made the presentation they said they were getting $200,000 from the county and $200,000 from fundraising and they actually need our money to keep doing the things they are doing now and that workforce development is the main thing they’re doing,” Larkin said. “I just can’t see us cutting back right now. We look at this every year and I just don’t think this is the year to do it.”
Supervisor Don Hunold said he thinks it’s probably the right thing to do to re-evaluate the funding over the next year and leave it in the budget, but he cautioned that the funding should come to an end.
“They do have new leadership and I’m good with that. But I’m gonna to put it this way – if you keep giving them $200,000 they’re gonna take it,” Hunold said. “But get ready because we’re gonna put a stop to it at some point. This was supposed to be seed money. I’m just saying they need to understand that it is coming. The other thing I don’t understand is that there’s three of them…”
Fedler said he’s reacting to what he hears in the county.
The impression I get is ‘show me results..what am I getting for the money’,” Fedler said. ” And I bring up the fertilizer plant and they say if it wasn’t for the $1.2 billion from the state that wouldn’t have happened, so I mention Steel Castings and they say the guy that got that done isn’t even there anymore. So it comes to down to showing results.”
Folluo chuckled and told Fedler, “It wasn’t just one guy that got that done.”
After the discussion there was no action taken to reduce the LCEDG contribution from the budget.