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Chairman Dunstan seeks outside financial advice on county’s investments

EDWARDSVILLE – The chairman of the Madison County Board has proposed getting an outside professional to provide financial advice regarding county investments.

Today’s move is an attempt to resolve issues that have sprung up in recent months. Board members and others have been critical of the low returns on investments during the tenure of Treasurer Kurt Prenzler. Prenzler has defended his role, saying he is acting within the scope of the law. He said he has been focused on “safe” short-term investments even though the return is low.

Dunstan presented members of the Finance Committee with a plan that calls for the County Board and Treasurer’s Office to “work together for the benefit of county taxpayers.”

Addressing the members of the Finance Committee on Wednesday, Dunstan acknowledged the complexity of managing and investing more than $130 million.

“I strongly believe it is necessary for Madison County to utilize the services of an independent, professional financial advisor or firm, with experience and a track record of success, to advise Treasurer Kurt Prenzler and the County Board on the county’s investments,” stated Dunstan.

“Even in a low interest rate environment as we are currently experiencing, actively managing the county’s investments can produce increased investment income,” Dunstan said. “Having the type of investment plan developed by a professional, rather than just reinvesting money when a certificate of deposit or bond matures, has been overlooked for several years and needs to be an important part of the county board’s management of the public’s money.”

Dunstan said that while the treasurer has the responsibility of investing the county’s money, it makes no sense for an individual to have the responsibility of investing millions of dollars without the extensive research and market knowledge available from investment professionals.

“Taking advantage of the professional services available from a professional financial advisor is simply good government.”

Dunstan cited the Southwestern Illinois Flood Prevention District Council’s retention of a firm to provide investment advice.

“One of the key responsibilities of the Flood Prevention District Council is to manage the monies generated by the dedicated sales tax revenue. As a result of the investment advice the district has received, it is receiving a substantially higher percentage on its return than Madison County.”

In addition to proposing the use of a professional financial adviser, Dunstan stated he is directing the Finance Committee to take a more active role in the oversight of the county’s investments, to ensure the county receives professional investment advice “and to effectively communicate information on the county’s investments to the entire county board.”

“The priority is to safely maximize the return on Madison County’s investments, effectively lessening the burden on taxpayers, and the actions I have recommended would increase the transparency for the public and county board members related to the investment of county monies.”

According to Dunstan, it is essential the financial adviser be independent and not associated with firms seeking to invest the county’s monies.

“We are talking about more than $130 million of taxpayers’ dollars,” Dunstan stated. “I think it’s a pretty good idea to put politics and egos aside and do what is best for the people of Madison County.”

Prenzler has not yet commented on today’s developments.

 

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