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As we probe deeper into the growing $2 billion pot of reserve money that S.C. local governments have been squirreling away for themselves in recent years, there’s been a lot of speculation as to the random method we’ve employed in releasing this data for your consideration.

In fact, ever since we published our original story on the $700 million that local school districts had squirreled away as of a year and a half ago, people have questioned the scatter-shot method by which we’ve been bringing you updated data.

Specifically, do we have a grudge against any of these local governments? Is there just a particular geographic locale we dislike? Are we targeting certain lawmakers for embarrassment?

Or is it perhaps a combination of all three?

The real reason is actually quite simple … we’re giving this data to you as we get it ourselves, without any regard for which government it is, where it’s located or who there may have taken the infinitely inadvisable step of pissing us off.

Simply put, when we get it … you get it.

So when do we get the full picture of the complete local government pie?

As it turns out, collecting all of this information has been a monumental undertaking for our crack accountant – who shall remain nameless – and not all local governments have been “good boys” and filed their updated info.

Anyway, we will definitely be publishing a “master list” of the total amount of local surplus funds when everything has been collected, but if you’re anything like us you don’t like to wait.

And so today we have some updated fund balance info for a few smaller, more rural S.C. counties, proving that the “squirreling trend” isn’t limited to the larger municipal governments.

Take Colleton County, which has a $7 million fund balance – up 34% from four years ago.

Or Pickens County, whose $26.3 million fund balance is nearly double what it was in 2004 (and up 13% from last year).

Or Newberry County, which grew its fund balance by 48% from the previous year to more than $10.4 million.

Even tiny Edgefield County “edged” up its fund balance last year, to $3.6 million.

Amazing. Did any local governments show declining numbers, though?

Sure, Spartanburg County’s fund balance dropped from $15.3 to $11.5 million, and Lancaster County’s fell from $20.7 to $17.4 million, but these county governments certainly appear to be exceptions to the rule.

Again, we’ll keep giving you the info as soon as we get it, and count on FITS to pull it all together at the end with complete data on all local government surplus data.