The unanimous votes this week set the amount available for distribution this year at $135,000, based on expected income over the next three years.
Commissioner Ed Elkins said during discussion he thought it was prudent “and the right thing to do is to look at it over a period of time and make the awards based on an average amount of money that’s available rather than award a whole lot of money one year and nothing the next year.”
By shifting to the fiscal year, there would be $210,951 available for annual distribution over the next three years. The fiscal distributions would be greater than the amount based on the calendar year because of added income of $58,755 between Jan. 1 and June 30.
“However, we have some litigation we are facing and we don’t know what the outcome of that will be,” he said. “There is the potential that we might owe United Way some additional money depending on what the judge decides.”
As a matter of caution, he recommended HCI awards of $135,000 “and we’ll deal with next year, next year.”
Elkins said the calendar year worked fine as long as Morgan Keegan handled the funds, but it now becomes advantageous to shift to the fiscal year since the county trustee’s office is managing the money.
The HCI fund was established by money received from the sale of Bradley Memorial Hospital to Community Health Systems in October 2005. Bradley County received $15 million plus accrued interest, which totaled about $15.2 million.
Morgan Keegan placed a majority of the county’s investments with the Building Authorities in Blount and Sevier counties, and generated substantial returns. In 2009, Tennessee Comptroller Justin P. Wilson took the position (on Title 5, Chapter 8) that Public Buildings Authorities were not permissible vehicles for investment by public bodies. The money was then invested in Mississippi Treasury Bills where it earned little interest. The funds were later shifted to Bradley County Trustee Mike Smith’s office. His investment options were restricted by the comptroller, but he has since been given permission to invest in long-term CDs with a higher yield.
Elkins said the bottom line is that $969,000 was available for distribution from 2008 through 2010. Of that amount, $787,434 has been used or allocated, leaving a balance of $181,565 for distribution for HCI grant projects.
He said as of Dec. 31, 2009, there was $520,900 available for grant distribution. However, he recommended distributions averaging $183,000 annually if they remained on the calendar year. If all the available money was paid out, there would not be enough to pay the county’s share of the library bond payment, which is about $90,000. In 2011, only $57,489 would be available for distribution, or, over a three-year period, there could be an average of $183,037 available for HCI grant distribution.
On another HCI related matter, commissioners voted not to replenish the Public Water Fund to $100,000, but leave it at the current uncommitted balance of $50,000.
The public water fund pays up to 25 percent of the cost for a utility to provide water service to residents with contaminated drinking water or dry wells. The utility paid 50 percent of the cost and the individual pays the remaining 25 percent.