Supervisors look for way to grow health care fund

Supervisors discuss what to do with the $9 million health fund.
March 18th, 2020     Government & Politics

Union County has nearly $9 million in the bank – but can’t spend it.

That doesn’t prevent county officials from trying to be good stewards and see the fund grow, and they can, in fact, spend a very small part of the money.

The money in question is a fund established when Union County signed a long-term lease for Union County General Hospital to the Baptist Health Care System. Its purpose is to provide funds in the event the county has to take operation of the hospital back from the Baptist organization. That’s why it cannot be spent for anything else.

There is, however, a provision to allow a part of interest on the fund to be used for indigent or prisoner health care.

Currently, the fund is in the form of a certificate of deposit, which matures April 2.

Monday, county supervisors took bids on the CD for the coming year.

They were disappointed.

BNA Bank submitted a bid of 0.25 percent and BancorpSouth bid 1.05 percent. The current year’s rate has been 2.12 percent with BancorpSouth holding the CD, supervisors said.

Some of the board wanted to take the matter under advisement, and maybe negotiate for a better rate, but it was pointed out that they legally could only negotiate with the high bidder, who has little incentive to increase its bid.

Eventually, board president and Fourth District Supervisor Randy Owen moved to accept the high interest bid, but received no second for a minute or so. Eventually Fifth District Supervisor Steve Watson seconded and the motion passed, with some apparent reluctance.

This same issue saw considerable controversy a year ago when the CD bids were taken. The board voted to take the best bid based on interest rates, which was from an out-of-town-owned bank, but a local bank argued their many material contributions to the community should have been taken into consideration even if they did not propose the best percentage. There was some discussion that contributing factors might be considered in accepting bids in some circumstances but the matter was not clearly resolved as to which decision-making process was better.

It was possible that such controversy could arise again this year, even with the disparity in numbers.

However, the issue is not settled yet.

After supervisors dealt with a few other agenda items, county administrator Terry Johnson asked that the board return to the health fund question.

He pointed out, after considering the matter, that the county’s payroll checking account, with BNA, is almost certainly paying a higher interest rate that either of the CD bids, probably close to two percent.

So, in light of that, ultimately supervisors voted to reject the two bids after all and take the matter under advisement to check on the other account’s interest rate. If it does have a considerably higher rate, the county will probably just cash out the CD April 2 and deposit the nearly $9 million in the checking account.

If the market improves, they said they could always consider a CD and advertise for bids at a later date.


In other business:

Supervisors reported that an auction of surplus county material and equipment brought in about $90,000 March 7. Items seized by the sheriff’s department including weapons and vehicles brought in an additional $69,000. The money goes to the general fund.

They approved appointing Gary Nesbitt to the Lift, Inc. board, replacing Chris Farr, who died in an accident.

The board officially approved purchasing a bucket truck from New Albany Light, Gas and Water for $8,900. This purchase was made in the above-mentioned sale and will fill a need for the county when tree trimming and other work needs to be done since they don’t already have such a truck. They also approved notice of sale for six tractors, which were a part of the auction.

Supervisors approved a one-time appropriation to the Union County Library in the amount of $16,701.75. This was to pay for new flooring, painting and other renovation work done to the library and the total cost was split between the library and the county, which owns the building.

The board approved the hiring of Toni Mask as deputy collection in the tax office replacing Sharon Medlin, who is retiring after 32 years. Medlin will be honored with a reception from 2 to 4 p.m. March 26 in the main courtroom in the courthouse.

As usual, the board approved transfer of funds for various construction projects and paid normal bills for internal services by officials.

Finally, supervisors approved the reappointment of Randy Owen to serve on the Mississippi Partnership Local Workforce Development Areas Chief Elected Officials Board.

The next scheduled meeting of the board of supervisors will be at 10 a.m. Monday, April 6, in the boardroom of the chancery court building.

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