City Hall savings, 2016Swiss bank holds funds

COLUMBIA, 1/23/17 (Beat Byte) -- Despite gloom-and-doom budget talk from Columbia city manager Mike Matthes, City Hall's massive savings account was up $7 million in the 9-month period from Sept. 2015 to June 2016

The June figure -- the latest available from the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) -- shows city government sitting on over $306 million ($306,000,000.00), up from 2015's $299 million (see charts -- click for larger images). 

Known as "pooled cash and marketable securities," the money represents decades of excess revenues the private sector calls "profits", socked away with little fanfare -- or public scrutiny.    

The revenue comes from fees, fines, grants, taxes, and what may be the city's largest cash cow, charges for water, sewer, trash, parking, electric, and other utilities. 

A Swiss bank holds the CDs, money markets, and other liquid investments, a detail the city's financial reports do not disclose

The pooled cash investments "are in an account at UBS (Union Bank of Switzerland/Swiss Bank Corp.) and have been since 1994," city spokesperson Steve Sapp told the Heart Beat.   UBS Investment Consulting  manages another $118 million in police and firefighter pension investments, he added.    
UBS has held the city's giant savings account for 23 years possibly because City Hall considers the money off limits.   Day-to-day banking -- money for bill payments, paychecks, and so forth -- stays closer to home at US Bank, Sapp explained.  

Awarded in 2012, the city's arrangement with US Bank "is a 3 year contract with 5 one year renewal options," he said.    

UBS must be pleased with the city's massive, ever-growing savings balance.  "There are no fees changed to the city for this account," Sapp explained.   "UBS also provides reports to the city at no charge."  
City Hall savings, 2015
Matthes seems reluctant to share the good news.   Instead, he repeats a line heard when local officials want higher taxes or fees.  

“We’re headed for some pretty rocky financial times,” Matthes told newbie City Council candidates Saturday.   Retired city manager Bill Watkins called for "tight budgets" and "tough times" every year he served, too.     

Matthes also told the Council candidates a "ballot issue to increase the sales tax or the property tax to fund public safety" is back on the table, after going down to defeat in 2014.