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2013-04-04

Commishes get good & bad news

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Bandera County Commissioners received some good news and some bad news during their regular meeting on Thursday, March 28.

'Funds left over'

Keith Neffendorf of the Fredericksburg accounting firm Neffendorf, Knopp, Doss & Co., PC presented the findings of his firm's 2012 audit of Bandera County. To make a long story short, the news was "There were funds left over" and The county is in a strong financial position." Given the current fiscal lamentations of many towns and counties across the nation, the assessment doesn't get better than that.

Neffendorf estimated the county's income last year at a little over a million dollars, which leaves $4.6 million in the fund balance - defined as an accumulation of revenues minus expenditures.

Additionally, Neffendorf characterized the finances of the road and bridge department as "a lot stronger that other counties we do."

Bandera County's retirement expenses cost $629,377 last year, according to Neffendorf, who added, "Based on actuarial data, the state retirement fund is better off than the teachers' fund."

The only glitch in the audit - and a minor one, at that - was that two bank statements had not been reconciled in a timely manner in the office of the tax assessor-collector.

"The county's in good financial shape," Neffendorf concluded. "I just wish you could keep more of the money you have to send to the state. It would help local taxpayers if you could keep half of what is collected."

"This was a good clean audit and everyone in the county is to be commended," said Judge Richard Evans. All elected officials and department heads deserve credit for this good audit." Referring to the Eagle Ford Shale boom going on to the south of Bandera County, he noted, "We don't have oil, so we have to be fiscally conservative."

During her monthly oral activity report, EMS Director Cindy Martin told the court that a contract from the Texas Department of State Health Service (DSHS) had been delivered. "As soon as both parties sign it, we'll be able to order a new ambulance and equipment," Martin said. She estimated the ambulance would be ordered within 120 days of the paperwork being submitted to the state. "I want to thank Carol Corales for her outstanding grant writing," Martin said.

The DSHS grant of nearly $140,000 will be used to replace an ambulance that was involved in a three-vehicle accident in January. Previously, insurance had paid out $72,394 for the wrecked ambulance, which leaves the ambulance fund about $6,500 short. No doubt commissioners will address the shortfall at a future meeting.

Turning to the downside of an otherwise upbeat meeting, Architect Kenneth Burns of Burns Architecture, LLC, gave the court a bit of bad news. During his update of the proposed new animal shelter, he told commissioners that the recent request for proposals to construct the shelter had garnered only one response. That proposal topped a whopping $865,000 - well over the facility's projected budget of $200,000. "For that price, you could build an office building rather than an animal shelter," Burns said, suggesting that commissioners reject the proposal.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Bobby Harris, who is walking point on the project, said, "There is no justification for those numbers. They are way out of line." His motion to reject the sealed proposal was approved without opposition.

The proposal had been tendered by a San Antonio construction firm headquartered in Florida, Burns said. "I was disappointed that no smaller firms submitted proposals," he added.

"Do you think Eagle Ford has something to do with that?" asked Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Wilkerson.

"You can certainly make more money working for the oil companies," Burns said. "But I'm baffled by that bid."
"Ken and I are working on alternative methods of delivery that will keep the project on budget," Harris said.

Further discussions are expected at the Thursday, April 11, meeting of commissioners court.