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St. Lawrence County opts out of early pension payment

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CANTON — St. Lawrence County Treasurer Kevin M. Felt decided against paying the pension bill early to the state for fear it would leave the county cash-poor.

Mr. Felt had intended to send the $7.3 million pension payment to the state by Dec. 14 for a $60,000 credit but changed his mind after more careful scrutiny of the county’s fiscal condition.

“I looked and I might have been able to squeeze through the month,” he said. “That was the hope.”

However, January revenue tends to be slow. Although property tax bills are due by the end of the month, the money does not usually start flowing to county coffers until the early part of February. Local collectors do not turn over the money until they have a fair amount collected, Mr. Felt said.

He is projecting the county will have $4.5 million left at the end of the year, but that does not include the $3 million still owed the county by the state in tribal compact funds, bringing the available fund balance down to around $1.5 million.

Mr. Felt had wanted the early pension bill payment credit as a way to help lower the cost of the county borrowing $12 million to cover cash flow difficulties in 2013 but decided the bonus was not worth the chance of having insufficient funds.

“I’m not going to risk not being able to make payroll or not pay our bills,” Mr. Felt said. “That takes priority.”

The $12 million remains the correct amount the county needed to borrow to cover operating expenses in 2013.

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