Monday, September 15, 2008

Treasury Bonds or CDs?

That's the question the Lancaster County Convention Center Authority is considering as the term of its current Guaranteed Investment Contract (GIC) comes to a close by October 1.

The roughly $16 million "GIC" account is the master pot of money from which the Authority routinely draws down funds to pay its construction costs. It derives from Wachovia's sale of the construction bonds.

This "pot of money" made headlines this past summer when the financial rating of MBIA, the firm with which the money has been invested, was downgraded by the Moody's Investor's Service and additional collateral had to be pledged to protect the Authority's investment.

Since the term of the previous investment is coming to a close, the Authority must now decide where it wants to reinvest that funding. Should it try for higher interest with higher risks or should it take accept lower rates with less risk?

The higher interest route is to invest the $16 million in collateralized certificates of deposit.

The safer but lower-interest option is to simply purchase U.S. Treasury Bonds.

Executive Director Kevin Molloy said he was willing to take the risk of collateralized CDs, but Chairman of the Board Art Morris and the Authority's financial advisor, Steve Geisenberger, suggested that they would be more comfortable with the treasury bonds.

The finance committee voted, Monday night, to send a resolution to the full board authorizing the Executive Director to take whatever action necessary to protect the Authority's investment. Further discussion is expected at the board meeting, which is on Thursday at 5:30 p.m.

On the status of contingency funding, Morris reported that the Authority should know "by October 15th" whether the sought-after $3.2 million in contingency funds will become available.

NewsLanc asked about the level of confidence that these funds are indeed coming.

Morris referred to seemingly vague assurances from State Sen. Gib Armstrong that he is working on it.

"He has been supportive of the project, and I'm sure he's going to do his best to help us. That's all I can say," he remarked.

"I'll say this, he hasn't failed us yet," added Finance Committee member Ted Darcus.

Echoed committee chair Laura Douglas, "All we can do is keep our fingers crossed."

Douglas said that there is no word on when the remaining $1 million of the other $1.5 million requested contingency funding would become available.

She stressed that all or nearly all of the contingency funding (all $4.7 million of it) will be needed in order for the Authority to pay its bills without resorting to some other measure to acquire additional funding. Possibilities include taking out another loan or requesting an increase in the hotel tax.