The county had reached the $3 million milestone in its reserves.
The news came at the end of a routine county audit of last fiscal year’s spending presented to commissioners during their morning meeting.
Silva said that the Texas Association of Counties recommends that they retain at least three months of operating funds which is just more than a million dollars.
The county judge has a loftier goal though.
“As far as reserves, I would love it when I leave office, whether it is at the end of this term if I don’t get re-elected or if I get re-elected at the end of the next term, to have somewhere between five and six million dollars in reserves.
“This will give us an unheard of reserve short of when we leased the hospital to Chrisus Spohn,” he said.
For the past few budgets, commissioners have been cutting their spending, striving to avoid substantial tax rate increases.
While this conservative budgeting has made it possible to keep the tax rate lower than other areas, it isn’t the sole reason the reserves have increased — or in this case about doubled in one fiscal year.
“As I told someone earlier, it wasn’t because we are watching every penny,” he said.
“I think the Eagle Ford Shale has driven it tremendously.
“It has made it easier for us to get where we are.”
And that future looks even brighter — if the industry gurus are correct.
“I think we are poised to see a rise in natural gas prices,” he said. “If Bee County has anything, it is natural gas.”
Few Eagle Ford wells have yet to be drilled within the confines of the county. Most are being drilled in Karnes County, although many miles of pipelines have been laid through the area.
Having the additional money in the reserves reduces the stress come budget time; however, Silva isn’t one to want to spend it all to balance a bloated budget.
“It makes budgeting a whole lot easier,” he said, reminding that they would continue to work off lean budgets but possibly award raises and add back some of the services cut during harder times.
This surplus is thanks to the additional money coming in either directly from the oil industry or through sales tax or even payment of past due taxes.
Even this year is shaping up to be better than expected.
Sales tax figures are already at $1.1 million, and the county based its budget on $1.6 million.
Year to date, the county has received about 6 percent more this year than last, or about $49K more.
“I don’t know where we will be at the end of the year on sales tax,” he said. “I know it will probably be more than we projected.”
Linda Bridge, county tax assessor/collector, also reminded that better collection of past due taxes has helped the bottom line. This collection, she said, is thanks to their implementation of the Scofflaw Program which requires people to pay past due taxes, fines and fees before they are able to register their vehicle.
Commissioners are also just days away from another source of revenue — their own hotel/motel occupancy tax funds.
Bridge said that both the state Senate and House have agreed to grant Bee County’s wish of collecting HOT funds.
“It is now sitting on the governor’s desk,” Bridge said.
Being a relatively minor bill for the state, the governor will likely not get around to signing it, and it will become effective simply by default.
“It goes into effect 10 days after it sits on his desk,” she said. “It went to the governor on May 7 and will become law on May 17.
The court previously agreed that this money would be used to make repairs and improvements at the Expo Center.
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.