$2.7 in surplus sparks heated debate

By Taylor Risse

The October 3 meeting of the Bennett County Commissioners became quite heated when the matter of $2.7 million in a county surplus account was brought up.

Major discussion was held concerning the county having more than 40 percent of their annual budget in a surplus account. Auditor Williams contended that the money was in the account in case the last opt out didn’t pass. The county having reserve money was not questioned, it was questioned because of the amount of money in the account, above the legal limit.

The discussion led to Auditor Susan Williams and Commissioner Chairman Wayne Bond walking out of the meeting.

Commissioner Judd Schomp confirmed with Auditor Susan Williams that the budget has been finalized for the year. He expressed his concern about the money sitting in surplus. “To my understanding, we cannot have over 40 percent of our annual budget in surplus, in our cash account.” 

Auditor Susan Williams responded, “Now you keep talking about $2.7 million and that is what I anticipate is going to be the total cash in the general fund.”

Schomp asked, “But as of right now there’s probably $1.8?”

Auditor Williams answered, “I’m not sure.”

Schomp told the board when he found out about the amount of surplus he called commissioners from other counties to find out what they do with surplus. One of the commissioners he contacted was Casey Krogman from Mellette County and Krogman told him they hold the money for one year and then it gets put back in their budget.

Auditor Williams told Schomp, “You need to give me that law. You know what, I don’t think this is fair.”

Schomp countered, “I’m asking questions here.”

Auditor Williams responded, “In a public meeting without giving me a chance to know.”

Schomp replied, “I put my name on that budget and I’m a little scared right now.”

Auditor Williams explained, “In 2014, the total amount of cash the county had was $200,000. That’s all we had. So the commissioners did an opt out, the first time we ever had surplus was in 2016, more than our 40 percent surplus, was 2016. The commissioners knew that they had that, but at the time the opt out was going to be gone and we didn’t know if the opt out would pass.”

Commissioner Wayne Bond joined in, “We knew the auditors didn’t like it, but we didn’t know if we were going to have that opt out or not so we left it there. We told him [the auditor] why we did it, and he understood.”

(See p. 1, 10-9-2019 edition for full text)

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