This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A special meeting

There are Xs marked on the foundations of the old school in Hal Gray Park and they may indicate that there are plans to remove them. I could have found out by attending the Park Board meeting on Monday night but I decided instead to go to a special meeting of the County Council and Commissioners that was held at the same time.
The special meeting was a presentation from three people from Umbaugh, which is the County's financial advisor. In February the County refinanced the jail bonds  and the new interest rate was 1.97%. The refinancing will save the County a bit less than $25,000 each year until maturity, or about $91,000 total. In the process of refinancing the bonds, S&P examined the County's bond rating and, as a result, dropped the County from AA+ to AA. Although AA is still an excellent rating, the County leaders were disappointed with the downgrade and this meeting was a result.

The first speaker explained how S&P arrives at its ratings. There are some factors that the County government has little control over, such as the economy. The rating was done before SJC announced that it was closing or else that might have been listed as a negative. Someone mentioned that another threat to the local economy was the possibility that NIPSCO will close two of its units at the Schahfer Plant. However, there were several changes, some quite simple, that the County can make that will help it the next time it undergoes a rating evaluation. Having a capital improvement plan and written policies for debt, reserves, transparency/fiscal report, and investment are all things that are looked for in the ratings evaluation.

The second speaker told our county representatives that Umbaugh could help them with long-term comprehensive planning. This was prompted in part by another problem that may have been revealed in the rating process. Since 2013 the ending cash balances of the General and GAGIT Certified Shares funds have declined from a bit above $7 million to a bit below $4 million. Some of the other funds have grown, but the decline in ending cash balances in these two funds is troubling. The pitch here was that Umbaugh has the expertise and experience to prepare a plan that will help budgeting. The purpose of a plan is to identify problems and remedy them. The cost will be about $25K to $30K to set it up with updates after that for about $10K to $15K.

The Commissioners will meet in two weeks (they always reserve the option of a second meeting in case it is needed) and will consider the proposals from Umbaugh. The Council will meet the following evening and will be able to act on anything that the Commissioners approve. Judging from the reactions of the people in the room, they will hire Umbaugh to prepare a long range plan and to help formulate the various policies that S&P says that they should have.

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