Jan 8, 2013 9:08 PM by Matt Stafford

Money confusion in Elbert County

New county commissioners were sworn in Tuesday in Elbert County; as they begin the new year work continues on budget issues for the county, but there's confusion on how big the problems really are.

The confusion began in December; it was a Denver Post article described a sticky financial situation in Elbert County. Newly-elected Commissioner Robert Rowland was quoted as saying the county would only have enough money in the general fund for, "about 3 1/2 minutes," into 2013; about $6,095.

"The checkbook is empty," Rowland told the Denver Post.

Then, just last week, two outgoing commissioners -- John Shipper and Del Schwab -- sent out a letter saying the details Rowland described in the article weren't true by, "hundreds of thousands of dollars."

So, where's the mix-up? None of those three -- Rowland, Shipper, or Schwab -- would clarify for News 5. Multiple calls to all three went unreturned.

County Treasurer Rick Pettit says the $6,095 amount came from an October meeting where the commissioners were weighing where the balance of revenue and spending would be at the end of the year.

"That was the preliminary budget, that wasn't actually the actual budget that was adopted at the end of the year," says Pettit.

"It's (the $6,095 amount) an estimate," says Commissioner Kurt Schlegel. "Our ending fund balance came in much higher than that."

Elbert County ended the year at almost $96,000 extra in the general fund.

"It's a better cushion, but it's not enough," says Schlegel. "We need to be able to have reserves to fall back on; at this point in time we have very minimal reserves."

It's another belt tightening year ahead for Elbert County, but not necessarily an emergency according to Pettit and Schlegel.

"We're not sitting in a good position, but we are definitely in a better position than what we were at the end of 2011," says Treasurer Pettit.

"And projections are that we'll be much better at the end of '13 than we were at the end of 2012," adds Commissioner Schlegel.

Commissioner Schlegel and Treasurer Pettit both say Elbert County has the money to pay its bills going into the new year, and more money -- property tax revenue -- will be coming in at the end of February.

Commissioner Schlegel says right now it looks like that'll have an extra $300,000 in the general fund at the end of 2013, but (as we've seen) those numbers can fluctuate.



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