Pieces of the pie

LISBON – The recent stories about investment problems in the Columbiana County Treasurer’s Office may have given the wrong impression about the county’s financial condition.

A recent news story pointed out the county currently has a combined $26 million being invested through two investment firms, an indication county government was flush with money.

That is not the case, however, for a variety of reasons, starting with the fact only $2.8 million of that is from general fund offices, which includes county commissioners, sheriff, jail, prosecutor, courts and clerk of courts, recorder, auditor, treasurer, and Job and Family Services.

The remaining $23.2 million being invested belongs to non-general fund county offices that are outside the control of commissioners, offices such as the engineer, health department, mental health and developmental disabilities board.

Whatever local, state and federal government funding received for these agencies and departments flows through the treasurer’s office before being distributed to them. “We handle everything,” said Treasurer Linda Bolon, adding her staff has more than 200 different accounts to keep track of.

Rather than let the money sit idle while waiting to be distributed, the treasurer’s office invests the funds in short-term investments, often 30 days, with almost all of the interest income going to the county general fund and not the individual agencies.

“It’s my responsibility to watch the cash flow and ensure the money is invested and yet available when needed,” Bolon said.

The annual interest income can be substantial and once exceeded $1 million when interest rates were much higher, but the figure is closer to $500,000 these days.

Money is always coming in and being distributed, so the figure available for investment fluctuates. For example, right now the pot of money available for investment is higher than normal because the period to pay first-half property tax bills recently ended, which is money eventually distributed to school districts, cities, villages and townships.

But Bolon said by far the largest amount of money received is state and federal funds due non-general fund agencies. “Most of the money are federal grants or special monies that come in from various agencies, and we hold that for them. And while we hold that for them we invest it,” she said.