There’s a reason why fund balances exist

Published 7:08 pm Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Many times, local taxpayers will call into question why a municipality or the county as a whole stockpiles money. Sometimes the account in which the stockpile finds its home is called a “rainy day” fund.

First, one of the reasons the those funds exist is because it’s law. Counties must retain a certain amount of money, just in case. That number, at its lowest, is 8 percent of the operating budget, but many governing bodies choose to reserve more, just in case.

“Just in case what?” some might ask. Well, ideally, it’s just a cushion—peace of mind for those doing the accounting. But “just in case” can be an actual thing, and when that money is needed, and it’s not there, it can disrupt lives.

This week, Pender County Schools Superintendent Steven Hill sent out an email to all families with children in the school system. It reads:

“Good Evening PCS Families,

We hope this message finds you doing better every day. Please be advised that the start date for students will now surpass the current week as projected start dates become more fluid with funding obstacles, contractor costs and government protocols. The fund balance for PCS is depleted as is the additional $4 million recently allotted by county commissioners in an effort to provide the safest environment possible for students. By law, school systems cannot enter into repair contracts without possessing the funds to cover the contract. PCS cannot complete repair work without reception of these funds. We are engaged in local, state and federal government discussions to try and overcome this situation.”

Hill goes on to say that the projected return date to school is between Oct. 18 and Oct. 22, but with Hurricane Michael on its way, those dates will likely be postponed even further.

Children in Pender County have not been to school in more than a month, since before Hurricane Florence wrought destruction on eastern North Carolina. Think about what that means for the students, their parents, teachers and staff.

There is a reason those rainy day funds exist. They’re the “worst-case scenario” funds. In this part of the world, perhaps they should be called “hurricane funds.”

So next time a complaint is lodged against the county for setting aside more funds than some people may deem “necessary,” think about Pender County.