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Monroe County Treasure Taylor Abbott speaks to state association

WOODSFIELD — Monroe County Treasurer Taylor Abbott recently had the chance to share his expertise at the state level when he was invited to join a panel at the County Treasurers’ Association Upper Ohio Conference Nov. 17 in Columbus.

Abbott said he presented during an hour-long investment planning session. The conferences are held twice a year.

“This was my first time being invited to give the presentation as part of the panel,” Abbott said. He was on a panel with three other financial experts.

“I was very pleased and honored that they would invite me to join that panel,” he said.

Other panelists included Ryan Nelson from the RedTree Investment Group; Lorrie Harper, vice president of Chase Bank; and Jennifer Trowbridge, investment manager with RedTree.

“It was basically providing information on allowable investments under law and insights on how to invest county funds in today’s challenging and low-interest-rate market and the environment that we’re in,” he said.

Abbott said this was particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m looking at revenues for the past year and where things stand. I’m looking at sales tax. I’m looking at general fund revenues. Housing fees from the jail. I’m looking at current interests that will receive investments to see how the market’s fluctuated, Whether it’s up or down. Obviously it’s been down, but we’re poised to start seeing an upswing, but it’s a slow recovery,” he said.

“When I took office here in the county that was one of the things I set out to reform. I wanted to have a stronger, more diversified and secure portfolio, which we’ve been able to do. We’ve more than doubled our portfolio since I’ve taken office, and a lot of that was just understanding what the financial needs of the county and seeing money that wasn’t readily needed at this time just sitting in a bank,” he said, adding he decided to put these funds into a secure investment. He worked with an investment adviser to form a strategic plan.

“One of the biggest things we had to focus on in the past year and a half was opportunities for investments, which there weren’t a whole lot of,” he said. “There was a huge influx of stimulus money from the governments that hit the banks, that tanked short-term rates. There’s more money out there than even most banks wanted to have, and until that money gets spent and goes out the door, it’s going to keep our short-term rates down.”

He said the State Treasury Asset Reserve of Ohio (STAR Ohio), a government-backed banking program in Ohio, saw rates at a historic low at 0.08 percent. He said in January 2020 before COVID hit, it was 1.87 percent.

“The success of (Monroe County), even through COVID, even with the financial market what it was, this county was still able to make money and stay fairly on track. We didn’t take a hit like other counties did,” Abbott said. “We were protected that way. That’s my job.”

Other questions touched on how to maintain communications with other offices involved, such as the commissioners and auditors, to best understand the county’s needs.

Abbott said transparency and customer service is the focus of his office.

“Taxpayers have a much easier ability to pay their taxes or go online and do it and get their tax bill,” he said. “We want paying taxes to be as easy and efficient as possible.”

He took office in September 2017.

During the conference, there were 17 new treasurers in the state. Abbott spoke about handling the transition into the position.

“I gave some insights on the challenges of taking over an office without a transition, and what’s available to those new treasurers,” he said. “I’ve been happy to be part of that group of treasurers. We help incoming treasurers with any questions they have.”

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