Ulster comptroller recommends changes to fund balance reserve policy

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KINGSTON – Ulster County Government actually spent less than it anticipated in 2020 because of the COVID-19 shutdown, therefore it did not use its unappropriated fund balance as planned.

County Comptroller March Gallagher said while the county has a history of budgeting to use an average of $11.9 million of fund balance annually, it actually tapped the fund balance once since 2013 and instead averaged an annual surplus of almost $2 million.

She said the difference between budgeted fund balance usage and the actual outcome differed by an average of $14 million annually as a net increase to fund balance.

“Holding on to more money in our fund balance than we need to impacts the taxpayers. We can give a tax cut or lower tax increase if we hold less there, and I think we have also learned that during emergencies we are going to see changes in the state and federal government that are going to help us,” she said.

Gallagher said the county legislature should update its financial policies every two to three years and it has been closer to 10 years. “So, I am happy that they are taking it on.”