How do you lose $9 million dollars out of a balance of $20 million?
Are you as confused as I was when I first read about the $9 million dollars that’s uncollectible in Columbia County’s fund balance? Well, here’s a brief explanation.
When the Columbia County Department of Social Services spends $1 million dollars, the county immediately bills the state or federal government for reimbursement. That amount then shows on the county’s financial records as an asset, because the state will reimburse the county for the money. Unfortunately, the DSS has been billing the state for amounts above reimbursement limits or caps. The Treasurer has treated the whole bill as an asset when in fact only a portion is an account receivable. Now a significant portion—$9 million—will never be paid by the state.
What this does is inflate the county’s unexpended fund balance, so that everyone, including the Board of Supervisors, thought it had more funds than it had. Financial statements showing these bogus numbers have been used to obtain loans and bonds. Those outstanding loans or bonds were given by lenders based upon false financial statements. Now the county’s financial statements need to be written down by the $9 million. This write-down must be, and apparently has been, reported to bond holders and perhaps even the SEC.
Under these circumstances the county’s bond rating will almost certainly be reduced, which means the rate of interest the county pays on all its loans will go up. This will negatively impact the county’s finances.
I can’t help wondering why Treasurer Ken Wilbur never saw this. Would not ordinary reconciliation have shown a lack of $9 million?
Former Candidate for County Treasurer