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Portion of fund balance is tagged


Jefferson County will set aside $5 million of its fund balance toward the assisted-living project that will replace the county's Home for the Aged, also known as Whispering Pines.

The money, previously promised, will be put in a committed account for the project. The time frame and means of paying it out will be worked out through a development agreement among the parties, including Samaritan Medical Center, Carthage Area Hospital, the Watertown Housing Authority, the county and the Community Assisted Living Corp.

Samaritan Medical Center was awarded a $34 million Health Care Efficiency and Affordability Law for New Yorkers grant to construct two new facilities in the county, a 168-bed skilled nursing facility and a 120-bed assisted-living facility, likely on outer Washington Street. Carthage's hospital will build a facility to accommodate 60 assisted-living residents.

The Finance and Rules Committee approved the move Wednesday afternoon. The full Board of Legislators will consider it at 7 p.m. Tuesday in its chambers, 195 Arsenal St.

"How are we going to bring this money forward?" asked Vice Chairwoman Carolyn D. Fitzpatrick, R-Watertown.

"That will be in an agreement. We're negotiating that," County Administrator Robert F. Hagemann III said. "That will be done over a period of time."

Deputy Administrator Michael E. Kaskan said the board still must appropriate the money before a check is cut, so the board will approve actually spending the money later.

The development agreement should be done "sooner rather than later," said Legislator and corporation board President James A. Nabywaniec, R-Calcium. "By the end of the year, we should have a blueprint of what needs to be done with all the partners involved."

David L. Mosher, who will represent the corporation at consortium meetings, said the five partners will meet today to talk about what needs to be accomplished and when.

The allocation was approved with a fund balance policy and brings the fund balance at the end of 2011 to the targeted proportion. The fund balance policy calls for the county to set aside two months' worth, or 16.7 percent, of its annual operating expenses. With the county's proposed $148 million 2011 budget, that would be $24.7 million.

With the $5 million set aside, the projected unrestricted fund balance at the end of 2011 would be $24.7 million.

"In 2011, we are absolutely on target with the policy if it is adopted," Mr. Hagemann said.

In the policy, fund balance designations, now made by administration, will be approved by the board, likely through the audit committee.

"This will give you a chance to take a look at it, discuss it and adjust it accordingly," Mr. Hagemann said. "We need to make sure we are very prudent and conservative."

The policy grew out of the ad hoc Fund Balance Committee, which was formed to decide what an appropriate amount would be for the county's savings accounts.

According to an end-of-year 2009 audit, the county had $19.3 million designated for certain types of expenses, $4.2 million reserved and $10.7 million in unappropriated fund balance, for a total of $34.2 million. The county had planned to use $7 million of the fund balance for the 2010 budget.

The $5 million assisted-living center allocation is on top of $7.7 million of undesignated fund balance and $1.5 million of designated fund balance toward the 2011 budget.

The designated amount, set aside by administration, will go toward purchasing a new financial management system. The undesignated amount is unrestricted in its use. The fund balance is the savings the county has accumulated from previous years.

Legislators were pleased with the policy.

"The strides the committee has made have been great in terms of transparency," said Mr. Gray, who was on the committee. "There has been a lot more communication, a lot more interaction with administration."

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