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 $2,976,382 in fiscal year 2018; increasing investment revenue 699% 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, investment professionals, and three+one advisors.
"Our goal was to make sure every dollar was working, but we are so limited in what we can invest in, we 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.
"It had been challenging to obtain a cash flow projection that was reliable enough to use for investment decisions. This greatly limited investment earnings by being consistently underinvested and relying on an investment advisor's recommendations," said Treasurer Walls. "By redirecting our 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 per year; we are no 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. "We attribute much of our earnings success to the performance of the LGIP," said Treasurer Walls. "We are earning a healthy yield but can obtain funds by the next day, if needed."
The other investment options used are Treasury and Agency bonds. "Because we are monitoring cash flows so closely, we have been able to select bonds offered through a broker; which eliminated investment advisory fees," explained Treasurer Walls. Typically, only long term funds are invested in bonds, and the Treasurer's Office limits bond purchases to those maturing within 24 months.
As a March 4, 2019 meeting of Beaufort County Council, Treasurer Walls reported that even through there was still five months remaining in fiscal year 2019, investment earnings had already exceeded $3 million. "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."
Treasurer Walls anticipates over $3.5 million in investment earnings at the conclusion of this fiscal year.