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Investing money: What to do? What to do? Just do it!

If you could write a check for $500,000 with the immediate promise of doubling your money to $1 million, would you not? And knowing that, from that money you could receive a check every three months from now on, for all eternity, for the amount of earnings on that investment, would you not? And if you could spend that money – the earnings – on anything you wanted or needed, would you not?
The only real question, of course, is not “Would you?” but “How fast?”
Apparently, and surprisingly, some members of the Harrison County Council don’t consider investing in the future a good idea. To other folks, us included, investing the money appears to be a no-brainer.
But on Monday night, Dec. 23, the council unanimously voted to table the commissioners’ request to invest $500,000 of the $3.5 million the council had already approved to pay down school debt and thus lower property taxes next year.
To spend $3.5 million for that still required the commissioners’ approval, and that three-member board approved only $3 million for immediate tax reduction. The remaining $500,000, the commissioners said, could be invested with the Harrison County Community Foundation to reduce future taxes or at least keep those taxes from going up to fund the operation of a badly-needed animal control facility.
The Foundation had agreed to double the county’s $500,000 for three years, which would bring the total investment to a whopping $3 million. Conservative estimates put the possible earnings on the investment at $150,000 a year. Given the low rate of return on most investments in today’s market, the earnings could be substantially higher as the economy improves.
The Foundation would also double donations from private individuals who want to invest $10 or $100 or more to the good of the county.
Anyway, the commissioners asked the council to transfer $500,000 from the $3.5 million the council had already approved for school debt. That would have left $3 million for the tax deduction, which would result from paying down the school debt in each of the three public school systems in Harrison County. The resulting decrease in property taxes will amount to five cents less per $100 in assessed valuation of property. If property is valued at $120,000 (market value), the total savings will be 33 cents instead of 38 cents, or $396 instead of $456, which is a $60 difference.
The commissioners had asked the council to transfer the $500,000 before the end of the year for two reasons: One, to start the investment-earning process right away, and, Two, to avoid the red tape of having to begin the process all over by asking the council for the money after the first of the year. (The $500,000 will still be in the checkbook, but authorization to spend it dies, unless the appropriation has been encumbered by a contract.)
One reason – and it’s a good one – why the council opted to delay a decision on the request was to have more time to review and digest the agreement that would be reached between the county and the Foundation.
Out of all the concerns mentioned, this is the only one that has merit.
The terms of the agreement are negotiable, including whether the purpose is to establish operating funds for animal control or not. County officials could simply use the endowment as a savings account and spend the income from it or not on worthwhile purposes that arise unexpectedly or on future projects.
During public hearings around the county prior to the influx of riverboat revenue, one concern many residents expressed was a need to save part of the money for the future. Setting aside revenue in an endowment would certainly do this, more so than in the beleaguered riverboat contingency fund. That account has been used to finance many projects and, in most cases, the money has been repaid, much like a bank would be had that been the source of funding. An endowment would provide a revenue stream, but the principal would remain to generate more money in the future.
Right now the county is rich enough to make the investment. We hope our astute politicians will see beyond their future need to be re-elected and ensure the county’s future instead.

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