Conservation Projects Could Dip Into Douglas County’s Reserve Fund
What is the purpose of a "reserve fund", when should it get tapped into, and what rate of negative growth is acceptable? Those are the questions before the Douglas County Land Conservation Committee and the County Board as they consider using reserves to fund a variety of conservation projects on the table.
A recent approval of a $20,000 request for money to fund a projects being "done by the aquatic invasive species and environmental resources specialist". According to the details shared in an article in the Superior Telegram [paywall], that $20,000 grant money would "leverage a total of about $80,000 for projects" once matching grants kick in.
But that $20,000 dollar mark is a lot more than what the fund was set up to pay out:
"The fund was created in 2006 and designed to provide modest sums of money from the annual interest earned by the fund to leverage additional funding for environmental projects with demonstrable public benefit. Over the last few years, the fund has earned about $4,000 annually in interest".
Some Douglas County Board members voiced their concerns about the difference between what is being allotted for this project and what the annual interest yield is. Especially since the reserve fund has been utilized for even-large amounts the last few years:
"[Douglas County Board] Supervisor Wendy Bong...[asked if this new request was a "one time thing"]...expressing concern about the fund dwindling after the county spent more than $53,000 of the fund in 2018 and nearly $10,000 the following year to pay for a failed wetland mitigation program in Douglas County."
At this time, the County Board fels that using reserve funds was prudent. The alternative funding will help what Land Conservation Chairperson Sue Hendrickson says is "the goal...to help out one time as the county addresses employee wages and levy restrictions in its 2023 budget process".
It was also considered prudent based on the availability of matching funds.
For those reasons, the committee "unanimously supported the recommendation [to] provide the land and water conservation $20,000 from the environmental reserve fund". The allocation comes up for a final approval vote by the Douglas County Administration Committee - at their annual budget meeting - which is scheduled for September 22.