VALPARAISO — A rare moment of unanimous cooperation by county government officials is paying off big for local taxpayers.
The decision by the Porter County Board of Commissioners and County Council to create a foundation to expand the investment options for the $148 million in proceeds from the 2007 sale of the county hospital generated $1.56 million in its first quarter, which is more than any entire year prior.
The gain has increased to 4 percent as the second quarter of investment winds up, said Amanda Black, director of client strategy at Capital Cities.
"That is very, very, very good from our expectations," County Council President Dan Whitten, D-at-large, said upon hearing the news Tuesday night.
Whitten said the county set out with a goal of earning 5 percent on the money each year and has nearly reached that amount in just six months. The plan is to withdraw up to 5 percent of the earnings each year and reinvest the balance, he said.
A spending plan has yet to be determined for the proceeds, but Whitten said it could be a combination of government spending and considering requests from local social service agencies.
The council and commissioners took advantage of a new law law earlier this year to create the foundation. In addition to paving the way for more investment options, the agreement protects the principal by requiring unanimous approval from both boards to make any changes.
Unanimous approval was needed to invest the money in the foundation.
"It's very early in a long-term game, but what a fantastic start," Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, said of the first investment report.
Black told the commissioners and council members that the county's performance ranked within the top third of comparable mid-size foundations.
The county invested 40 percent of its money in stocks, Whitten said.
The money had reportedly been earning less than 1 percent under investment limitations in place before the new law pursued by state Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso.
County officials have been discussing the best ideas for the money since the funds became available with the opening of the new Porter Regional Hospital in August 2012. The county had been limited to investing in money markets, bonds and loans to other government entities.
The commissioners and council held back $10 million from being invested in the foundation to help fund the new animal shelter and for potential uses in buildings and for the new south county park.