HERNANDO, FL - With the help of the County Board of Commissioners, Hernando County is struggling to fix its financially embattled fleet department, according to Hernado Today.

Commissioners lent $350,000 from its general fund to help the department establish a reserve and get back to black - or at least as close as possible.  Privatizing efforts was another idea the board investigated. 

Commissioners voted 5-0 to approve its newly formed budget and finance standing committee.

A combination of mismanagement and fiscal oversight has put the fleet department in its current untenable situation, according to County Administrator David Hamilton.

Much of the department's revenue comes from customer department charges - including enterprise fund departments - to maintain and repair their vehicles.

For example, if fleet must replace an engine on a truck assigned to the airport, the bill is sent to the airport enterprise fund. The same goes with other departments. 

"It just got to a point where the repair work they were billing out for and the cash coming in to pay for the bills (created) a cash flow problem," Budget Director George Zoettlein said.

However, County Commissioner David Russell said it appears the billings are either behind or were not properly submitted. The turmoil in the department also apparently led to a breakdown in fiscal oversight.

Zoettlein said the fleet loan should not affect the general fund reserve accounts, which currently total about $23 million.

"Unless we have a major hurricane that wiped out the entire County, we probably won't be spending $23 million," Zoettlein said.

The County would have put the $350,000 in the bank and gained interest anyway, he said. The only difference now is that the fleet department will pay it back with interest.

Most of the reserve money is used as balance-forward cash to get the County through the first few months of the fiscal year, he said.