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November 12. 2012 10:24PM

Bedford plans to bolster its cash with new fund balance policy

BEDFORD - The town's new fund balance policy will allow it to set aside up to 17 percent of its prior year expenditures, officials said.

The range is roughly one to two months' worth of expenditures.

The goal was to previously set aside 8 percent of expenditures for the general fund, said Finance Director Crystal Dionne, but changes were made to comply with a Governmental Accounting Standards Board statement.

According to the new policy, the town will maintain adequate fund balances and reserves in order to ensure sufficient cash flow for daily financial needs, secure and maintain investment-grade bond ratings, offset significant economic downturns or revenue shortfalls, and provide funds for unforeseen spending related to emergencies.

As of its December, 2011 audit, Bedford's unassigned fund balance totaled $6,825,871, and Dionne said the town adds varying amounts to it each year, depending on the amount of the budget surplus.

"We have consistently appropriated an amount through the budget process since the adoption of the original policy in 2005," Dionne said. "Amounts have ranged from a high of $430,000 to a low of $100,000."

Dionne stressed the importance of maintaining a healthy fund balance.

"The major driving force behind the need for fund balance is cash flow," she said.

Dionne said Bedford is a calendar-year community, collecting tax revenue in arrears.

Many similarly sized towns work on a fiscal year and are able to collect taxes in advance of spending the funds, she said, and Bedford's fund balance has enabled it to avoid the need to issue tax anticipation notes.

"We must meet our financial obligations, yet the funds to meet such obligations are not collected in advance of the obligations coming due," Dionne said. "This would be a major cause for concern if it were not for our healthy fund balance, which has thus far prevented the need for the Town to issue TANs."

In addition, the fund balance puts the town in a solid position for bonding, Dionne said.

"Creditors loaning the town money want to be assured that there is little risk involved and that the town has the resources to pay them back," she said. "Having this fund balance gives them the assurance that we have the necessary resources to pay our obligations as they come due."

kremillard@newstote.com


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