by Sam Hieb
By separate 5-2 votes, Forsyth County Commissioners raised the county’s debt ceiling while lowering its fund balance. Commissioners Gloria Whisenhunt and Richard Linville were the ‘no’ votes on both motions:
Under the old debt policy, the board could only spend up to 15 percent of the county budget on debt payments, or 16 to 16.5 percent if you didn’t factor in revenues like lottery funds that offset debt.
The limit is now 18 percent, which gives commissioners more debt capacity to work with as they plan out capital projects for the next several years.
The board decreased the amount it has to keep in unreserved fund balance at the end of each year from 16 to 14 percent of the coming year’s budget. Excess funds can be used for capital or economic development projects.
Forsyth County chief financial officer Paul Fulton said raising the limit to 18 percent just gives them some capacity so the county is not bumping up against the limit. Taxpayers should hope that raising the limit doesn’t give commissioners permission to bump up against the higher ceiling. But never assume.