December 29, 2017 9:58:59 AM
With a light agenda for its final meeting of 2017 on Thursday, the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors looked ahead, not to the new year but to today.
More specifically, the board looked forward to 4 p.m. today, which is when the stock market will close for the last time this year. At that point, the supervisors will know how much their Hospital Trust Fund has earned and, more importantly, how much of those profits they can withdraw for capital improvements. Under the law governing the county's trust fund investment, any withdrawal of profits must be based on the portfolio's value on the last day of the year.
Going into the final hours, the outlook is very promising -- potentially even record-breaking.
"At the close of the market (Wednesday), that would be $1,007,000 and some change," County Administrator Ralph Billingsley reported to supervisors. "If it finishes (today) at that, we'll have more (profits) than we budgeted, which was 3-percent growth. I also point out that we can only take out up to 3 percent of the total. Whatever money is made over 3 percent goes to the corpus."
The corpus is the principal of the fund, originally established from the roughly $30-million sale of the county hospital to Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation in 2006. By law, no withdrawal from the fund can be made that reduces the corpus.
If the market holds or increases value by the end of today's closing, the $1-million-plus withdrawal will be the largest supervisors have ever taken from the trust fund profits.
"The way it stands right now, we're not only going to be able to pull out $1 million, but we'll be able to increase the corpus by another $1 million," Billingsley said. "If that holds up, we'll have increased the corpus from $30 million when we started four years ago to around $32.5 million. It's been a very good year if nothing crazy happens between now and the time the market closes for the year."
Revenue produced by the trust fund can only be used for capital improvements. Since the law was changed four years ago to allow the county to invest the trust fund in the market, the county has used the money to renovate county owned buildings, improve the soccer complex in downtown Columbus and build a new E-911 Center.
With the money generated this year, the county expects to complete the horse park pavilion ($500,000) as well as build a community center in the Concorde community ($325,000).
In other business, Lowndes County Parks and Recreation Department Director Roger Short advised the supervisors that bids for the new playground at the soccer complex will be available for board action at its next meeting (Tuesday). Short said three companies have submitted bids. The county has a budget of $150,000 for the playground, which includes a $75,000 donation from the Junior Auxiliary.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]
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