On November 4, 2019, Maria Walls, CPA, Beaufort County Treasurer, announced to the Finance Committee of Beaufort County Council the collections results for tax year 2018 and record-setting investment returns for fiscal year 2019.
The Treasurer serves as the County's chief banker and investment officer, charged with the responsibility of investing funds that are not needed for immediate expenditures. By developing and implementing a new investment strategy, Beaufort County Treasurer Maria Walls, CPA earned a record $4,700,399 in fiscal year 2019; increasing investment revenue 1,004% since fiscal year 2016.
Beginning in fiscal year 2017, Treasurer Walls transformed the Office's investment strategy by establishing a formal investment policy and a liquidity management plan; working closely with the County's bank and three+one advisors.
"Our goal is to make sure every dollar is working, but we are so limited in what we can invest in, so we have really had to look at it from a different angle," said Treasurer Walls. Deviating from historical practices, rather than use a traditional investment advisor to hand select investments, Treasurer Walls looked to develop a cash flow management plan that was more focused on liquidity needs.
"When cash flows are infectively projected investment earnings will be limited because the County's funds are then underinvested," said Treasure Walls. "By redirecting out strategic focus to cash flow management, we have become extremely agile and able to identify available funds quickly and invest them. What we used to earn for the whole year, we are now earning per month."
The Treasurer's Office utilizes two primary investment options. The first is the Local Government Investment Pool (LGIP), an investment pool managed by South Carolina State Treasurer Curtis Loftis that functions similar to a highly liquid money market fund. The other investment options used are Treasury and Agency bonds.
"Through innovative thinking, we have earned a significant amount of money that, hopefully, will equate to fewer dollars coming out of the pockets of our taxpayers," said Treasurer Walls. " I am so proud of the work we are doing for Beaufort County, its citizens, and its agencies and will continue to build upon the successes we have achieved."
To learn more, watch Treasurer Wall's presentation of investment earnings to County Council or visit www.beaufortcountytreasurer.com
As of October 21, 2019, the total dollars billed for tax year 2018 was $428,577,429 which comprises the ad valorem taxes billed for real and personal property, as well as motor vehicles. The real and personal property collection rate for tax year 2018 was 98.72%, the highest rate in almost a decade.
The record-breaking rate is attributed to a primary focus of the Treasurer's Office, which is providing an excellent customer experience; not something typically associated with taxes or tax collection.
"This isn't just a smile at the counter. It is personalized and proactive communication," said Treasurer Walls. "It is leveraging technology to reach our customers where they are, in a manner that is convenient for them. And, most importantly, providing easy-to-use and inexpensive payment options so the taxes get paid. I believe all of these things have contributed to our success."
For County Operations, this was $87,789,392 collected (98.70% collection rate). For School District Operations, this was $126, 280,401 (98.06% collection rate). While a differing tax base causes the collection rates of the two agencies to be dissimilar, both agencies benefited from improved collections.