LGWCD Audit Good, But Dwindling Fund Balance A Concern

The Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District received a clean independent audit report for 2016 on Monday, but auditor Racquel McIntosh with Grau & Associates noted that the district’s unassigned fund balance was $146,810 less in September 2016 than it was the previous year.

The ending fund balance for 2016 was $621,135, of which $439,332 is restricted for debt service and capital projects, $24,671 is assigned for the subsequent year’s expenditures and $157,132 is unassigned.

Total revenues were almost $1.2 million, compared with almost $1.4 million in 2015, and expenses were almost $1.4 million, compared with over $1.5 million in 2015.

“The good news is you have enough fund balance in order to do that,” McIntosh said.

Supervisor Anita Kane said the district has been over budget for the past three or four years, but District Administrator Steve Yohe noted that in 2013-14 there was a surplus that added to the district’s unassigned fund.

Kane said she was glad that the district has been able to absorb the higher cost, but she was concerned about letting it continue to happen.

“We can’t continue to go over budget year after year,” she said. “It has been several years running that we’ve been over budget.”

Yohe agreed and said he had prepared a history of the unassigned budget, which was as low as $54,835 in fiscal year 2005-06.

“I would say the smaller amounts in the earlier years certainly were appropriate at the time because there was more certainty as to what the district was doing,” he said. “The town was just becoming a town, and everybody pretty much knew what was going on.”

In other business, during his administrator’s report Yohe said that Town Manager Bill Underwood had not received Loxahatchee Groves Town Council direction regarding a meeting date for the next joint workshop on roads.

Supervisor Simon Fernandez asked whether he could make a motion that evening to turn the remaining district roads over to the town rather than wait for additional workshops.

LGWCD Attorney Mary Viator recommended waiting until the next meeting where it could be put on the agenda for action.

LGWCD Chairman Frank Schiola pointed out that he had tried to make a motion two months ago to transfer the remaining roads but could not get a second on it.

Yohe also said he had received a letter from Dr. Horst Pferdekamper asking to have a portion of Collecting Canal Road paved due to the dust that has been exacerbated by the drought. His wife, Gisela Pferdekamper, also spoke at the meeting asking for paving, as she did at last week’s town council meeting.

Schiola said that when the issue was brought up at the last council meeting, Mayor Dave Browning said the district would not work with the town to turn the road over.

“If that’s true, why is B Road paved today?” Schiola asked. “The town came to the district with a plan and the money, and said, ‘This is when they expect to start doing it.’ The district board went ahead and turned it over unanimously, with very little discussion on the matter, and that is all we have asked for in the past.”

Loxahatchee Groves Vice Mayor Ron Jarriel said that an agenda item to turn the district roads over to the town had not been on the agenda, and the town would not be able to take the 15 or so miles of remaining district roads all at once.

“We grade our own roads once a month,” Jarriel said. “We grade, we water, we roll. It costs $138,000 a year. We can’t afford to pay a private contractor to come in and grade our town roads every time they need it. That’s why we’ve got to get an interlocal agreement going for our money that pays your district to function and be used for the residents.”

For Collecting Canal Road, Jarriel said he had told Gisela Pferdekamper that he was going to try to get the road paved with the help of residents, who got a petition for grading and watering.

“It’s a major thoroughfare for cut-through traffic when we have accidents on Southern Blvd.,” he said. “It’s one of the major roads that we use to reroute traffic.”

Jarriel added that now that the $6 million road bond issue has been approved, they will be able to afford to pave Collecting Canal Road.

“If you remember, we did a resolution asking for Collecting Canal Road,” he said. “The only thing you wanted from us was a guarantee that we were going to make the road better than what you all have made it. We have the possibility of doing that now.”

Supervisor Don Widing said he thought the town and district should be meeting weekly or every other week until they get all the road issues resolved.

“Just to flip a switch and say, ‘OK, tomorrow this stuff is yours; take it over.’ It doesn’t work that way,” Widing said.

He pointed out that all the transitions he had been involved with in his 44 years of government work had involved a plan.

Widing also noted that in a few weeks, the concern would be rain rather than dust, and both the district and the town are about to enter budget discussions.

“We’ve got to start thinking about how we’re going to pay for this,” Widing said.