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Susq. County Commissioners Talk Dollars and Sense

By Sandra Raub

The bi-monthly meeting of the Susquehanna County Commissioners was called to order on Aug. 24, with all three in attendance, along with Treasurer Cathy Benedict and Chief Clerk Sylvia Beamer. Regular business was dispatched efficiently prior to the convening of the quarterly retirement board meeting, which in turn sparked a bit of lively conversation surrounding the review of the county’s cash.

The quarterly review was presented by representatives Steven Flanders and Andrea Kimball from The Seneca Group, and prompted questions from both the board and the public. The first question posed to the group was if the current apparent downturn was just a pause or the start of a new recession. Flanders stated that the United States is not the only player in the economic market, and that international news was causing some scary drops, further attesting that the European debt crisis was spreading to countries that would have a greater impact.

Commissioner Michael Giangrieco chose that moment to steer the presentation away from the generalities of world economics by expressing concern for the county’s money and asking the first questions from the board: who do we trust, how safe is the county’s money and is the cash dollar losing value, as is believed by the general public?

Flanders confirmed that while the current downturn in the market presents some challenges, it does not present in the same way as the one of 2008, but admitted that politics both nationally and internationally play a role and could affect recovery. He stated, however, that the county’s investments are “safer than we were before” based on additions to the portfolio that take advantage of market trends. Concerning those investments, The Seneca Group further elaborated on the recommendations it had made at the previous review. These included diversification to non-U.S. bonds, more non-U.S. dollar based investments, and further taking advantage of what is performing versus what is not.

In the midst of these recommendations, questions were posed by a member of the public about buying gold, and it was explained that gold is part of the fund investment package.

After several interruptions by the questioner, Commissioner Mary Ann Warren asked that all questions be held until the end, stressing that it was very important that the commissioners get the whole of the presentation in detail in order to vote on the recommendations. A final clarification was asked for by Giangrieco on the actual amount of money to be moved to new investments.

Flanders confirmed that it is a small percentage, a gradual movement in the direction that had been presented at the previous review. Once that point was cleared, a motion was made and carried to approve the recommendations of The Seneca Group.

In final questions, the audience member again asked about gold, wondering if the county had considered utilizing other sources for buying gold and thereby putting county money into sold form. The response from the board was a very firm negative, and a motion was then made and carried to adjourn the meeting without further ado.

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