MOUNT VERNON — One of the areas cut in recent county budget trimming was the use of investment counselors. With the discontinuance of this practice, the county is going back to its former practice of holding regular meetings between the treasurer and the board of commissioners to decide how to handle investments. Treasurer Sandra Mizer met with Commissioners Allen Stockberger, Robert Wise and Teresa Bemiller Thursday for the first such meeting in four years.
To get back in the frame of handling investments, Mizer brought copies of the county’s investment policy to remind the commissioners of the rules laid down by the Ohio Revised Code regarding public investments, including the fact that any amount of public money invested in certificates of deposit (CDs), money market accounts or other similar programs must be collateralized by the bank. In other words, the bank must be able to guarantee it can cover the amount of the original investment plus a return.
Mizer and the commissioners then discussed the rate of return the county was getting on CDs. The county’s investments are spread around in a number of different accounts in a number of different banks, both local and regional. Mizer said that she tries to use local banks as often as she can, but that sometimes higher rates compel her to go outside the community to get a better return. She added that it was important for the county to keep healthy levels of business with First-Knox National Bank, as it is also the county’s depository bank, and it processes Visa and Mastercard transactions for the county at no fee.
Wise mentioned calling some banks to check CD rates, including one which was only willing to commit to a one percent rate on a million-dollar investment going as long as twenty-four months. They agreed that this was not an impressive rate, comparing as it did to the county’s other CDs, which run from 1.73 percent to 5.83 percent, though this latter rate was attached to a savings account with a lower interest rate.
Mizer said that she feels it is time for the county to look into doing the extra effort it takes to move into CDARS investments. CDARS, the Certificate of Deposit Account Registry Service, is a plan which splits up million-dollar investments into smaller pieces that fall beneath the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.’s upper limit. This way, the banks do not have to collateralize the investments, since they are all covered by the FDIC. As this is preferable for the banks, they often offer better rates for public money invested in CDARS programs.
The commissioners agreed. Since the next CD is due Monday, and it will take longer than a day to fill out the extensive paperwork involved with CDARS, Mizer suggested temporarily parking the next million-dollar investment in a money market fund until CDARS paperwork could be completed. The commissioners agreed and each member of the review committee was assigned research tasks related to CDs and CDARS.
In other business, Darrell and Peggy Severns asked the board if they would waive late fees for dog licenses. The Severns have accumulated five dogs, thanks to taking in ones abandoned near their rural home. When the notice for new dog licenses arrived for this year, Peggy said that she received it at a trying time when she was concerned about reduced work hours and increased insurance expenses. She said the increased fees momentarily got to her, and she threw the notice away.
Later, the county dog warden caught up with the fact that the dog licenses had not been renewed and threatened to levy fines of $135 per dog against the Severns. Those fines would be waived if the Severns went ahead and got tags now, at the increased late rate, including a fee of $16 per dog. The Severns asked if there was any way this amount could be waived, since they had merely taken in the dogs out of kindness.
Commissioner Wise said that he would be in favor of splitting the difference to give the Severns a break, but Commissioner Bemiller said that she was afraid that would set a precedent where people could be excused from the fees just because they were angry about them. Commissioner Stockberger cast the deciding vote, agreeing with Bemiller. The waiver request was denied. The Severns said that if any more dogs are abandoned in their neighborhood, from here on out, they will call the dog warden to get them.