How to Spend $20 Million: County Commission to Decide

Lee Herald Favicon 16The Lee County Commission worked to determine the process by which they would choose how to spend the county’s projected $20 million excess reserve funds on Tuesday.

The commission adopted a requirement in 2015 that the county maintains 20 percent of its general fund as a reserve. That means the county is required to have $80 million in its reserve account but it is projected to have $100 by the end of the fiscal year.

Commission Chair John Manning said that the county already had an established list of priorities like transportation improvements, redevelopment and replenishing funds for the Conservation 20/20 program and that he would like to see the excess funds applied to those priority projects.

“I don’t know how you folks feel but I would like to stick with these strategic priorities and fold anything excess, depending on what we vote on that is a higher priority, into this methodology here,” Manning said.

Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass said that he believed the nature of transportation and infrastructure projects made them easy candidates because in many cases the additional funding could accelerate their completion.

“We have a priority already in place with transportation and infrastructure because of our five-year [capital improvement plan],” said Pendergrass. “The money could be plugged into some of those projects.”

The capital improvement plan, or CIP, directs funds for infrastructure improvements in the near and long term.

Accelerating road construction was also an attractive option for Commissioner Brian Hamman.

“I think last year we did a good job of coming up with a ranking system for road projects that go into out CIP,” said Hamman. “ As a board, one easy thing for us to do would be to say that we want to allocate a certain amount or percentage of the excess revenues to expedite some of those projects.”

Pendergrass said that projects such as the widening of Corkscrew Road were not yet on the county’s five-year year plan but that completing current projects with the funds could allow the county to get to new projects sooner.

The commission directed staff to prepare a list of highest priority road projects that could be accelerated with the funds, but also decided it was important to keep the option open for Conservation 20/20 acquisitions or other opportunities.

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