Victoria GOP treasurer candidates debate investments, spending (w/video)

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

Feb. 18, 2014 at 10:04 p.m.
Updated Feb. 18, 2014 at 8:19 p.m.

In the opening day of early voting, the two Victoria County Republican candidates for treasurer debated the issues for a spot on the November ballot.

Two-term incumbent Sean Kennedy highlighted his experience with the county that began with the auditor's office, while his opponent, Lisa Hernandez, a vice president of private banking and wealth management at Prosperity Bank, talked up her 29 years in the banking industry during the Victoria Advocate's debate series.

After opening remarks, the candidates outlined plans for investing the unspent funds and how much reserve the county should maintain.

Hernandez, 51, said she wanted to invest portions of the county's $12 million reserve fund in long-term products she said will have higher returns.

Kennedy, 57, said the current investments earn .5 percent. Those are considered short-term investments, which follow the county's investment policy of maintaining principle, liquidity and yield.

"When you're investing that kind of money, part of the unreserve fund is for emergencies," Kennedy said.

"We don't know when something is going to come up."

Hernandez said she would take up an investment policy that would include AAA bonds with 3 percent returns. She did not mention specific bonds she wants to put the county's money in.

According to the county investment policy, funds are not authorized to be invested in load mutual funds, collateralized mortgage obligations, bankers' acceptance or strip securities.

Kennedy said he did have enough information about the bonds Hernandez proposed.

When asked about the size of the reserve fund, Hernandez noted it is "a significant amount of money" and that it should be limited.

Kennedy said the yields are not available to earn more than they currently are, unless commissioners approve tying up funds for three years.

He said the reserve has fluctuated over the years. In 2003, it was at $3 million and now is at $12 million.

"We have to be very careful with this," he said. "It's not something that you call a rainy day fund; it has uses, and it changes a lot."

Commissioners recently approved using some of that fund to purchase the Hartman Distributing building and will likely use those funds in the remodel of that facility.

Hernandez said her campaign is relying on her banking experience.

"I worked my way up because I have a hard work ethic," she said. "I've earned it."

Kennedy's previous experience includes working for the county in the auditor's office and as a grant manager for the health department as well as a small-business owner in the ranching industry.

During closing remarks, he continued to challenge Hernandez to give specifics about her plan to get higher yields on investments.

"I will use my education, my training and experience to continue to provide you, the taxpayer, with what you deserve," he said.

The annual salary for treasurer is currently set at $77,758.



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