Ulster County Investment Earnings Not Maximized

KINGSTON – County Comptroller March Gallagher released a follow up audit finding that Ulster County earned an additional $4.21 million as a result of reallocation of investments since the Comptroller’s 2022 Investment Policy Compliance Audit. However, the audit also found that an additional $2.4 million could have been earned over the audit period through a more strategic investment approach.

“Ulster County funds could be invested to protect taxpayer assets and yield better returns while reducing risk through diversification. We should be maximizing opportunities to earn additional funds that can be used to support the ongoing work of providing basic services to our residents and managing the impact on taxpayers. We still have not taken the steps needed to revise our investment portfolio to bring it in line with the County’s Investment Policy. I am hopeful that once the Investment Advisory Board convenes the County will be guided to secure and optimize the return on taxpayer funds.”

Although the County is seeing higher returns on its bank accounts, the audit found that interest revenues are still not being optimized. The interest rates on those funds lag when compared to potential investments such as the municipal cooperative investment vehicles like NYCLASS and NYLAF. These other investment vehicles recommended in the Comptroller’s audit provide liquidity and comply with General Municipal Law with greater returns. Instead, Ulster County is overly invested in the Bank of Greene County, which manages 96% of County funds that represents 9.7% of the Bank’s total deposits as of the end of June 2023. The Audit also found that the County does not perform regular cash flow analysis to determine a suitable floor of cash, the funds above which could be invested in accounts with greater returns.

The Audit found that the County has yet to convene its Investment Advisory Committee as directed by the latest version of the County’s Investment Policy adopted by the Legislature earlier this year. The Comptroller recommends that the County Legislature amend the recently adopted policy to identify who is responsible for convening the body.

The County Comptroller has appointed Meredith Briggs, CFP, to serve on the Investment Advisory Board once convened. Ms. Briggs is a Certified Financial Planner and co-owner of Taconic Advisors in Saugerties and Poughkeepsie.

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