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A Message and Update from Treasurer PJ Keeler

Wow, what a year! 2020 presented Columbia County with unprecedented financial challenges, the likes of which no one has seen since the Great Depression.  Our early indications provided a bleak economic outlook that included projected revenue losses and cash flow deficits between $12-$15 Million as a result of the loss of State Aid, sales tax, and other revenue. Taking no action to remediate this would result in placing our County at great financial risk. Failure to act could have caused us to have to borrowing money to meet obligations and jeopardize our financial rating which would lead to higher borrowing costs.

We acted quickly and aggressively. Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairman Matt Murrell worked with the County Controller and I to put together a bipartisan financial oversight committee to address the looming financial crisis. This didn’t happen in all counties, but it did here! We have a responsibility to the taxpayers and we were determined to meet this challenge head-on; no hesitation, no trepidation, and no politics!

As a result of our recommendations, which included a 20% reduction in departmental budget expenditures, postponement of Capital projects (including road repair and equipment purchases), a hiring freeze, a 13-day furlough of all non-essential employees and elected officials (which included Supervisors and myself as your County Treasurer), the deferring of our State Pension payment, and other aggressive measures, we were able to realize a cost savings of approximately $10 Million and cash savings of approximately $15 Million.

This strategy proved to be effective as our preliminary unaudited numbers show us continuing to maintain a strong financial position and will position us well to continue to provide the needed services to the residents of Columbia County.

As a steward of the Public funds, I will continue to invest County funds securely and conservatively while at the same time maximizing interest earned to reduce taxpayer financial burden.  In addition, we will continue to seek operational efficiencies and maximizing revenue opportunities where possible.  As an example, this month I will be consolidating our Mental Health billing department into our Centralized Billing Office in the Treasurer’s Office, resulting in savings to the County of $150,000 per year.

I thank you for your continued support in our continuing quest to keep Columbia County a safe and affordable place to live and visit.


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