RALEIGH — State Treasurer Dale Folwell discussed investment trends related to the state’s retirement system as well as the status of municipalities struggling with financial issues in a recent media availability session.
Folwell said that the Local Government Commission (LGC) had approved over $1 billion in various financing requests from more than two dozen local governments and counties.
In a press release, the treasurer provided a summary of some of the larger approved spending items:
- Forsyth County received approval for $160 million in limited obligation bonds to acquire, build and equip a new county courthouse, along with financing to build a new children’s museum, renovate and expand Smith Reynolds Airport facilities and to refund existing bonds “at a savings of $2.8 million.”
- Moore County received approval for $71 million in limited obligation bonds to acquire, build and equip a new, multi-story county courthouse in Carthage for District and Superior courtrooms, and renovations to the existing courthouse.
- Hoke County was approved to obtain $50 million in limited obligation bonds to build the 53,000-square-foot James E. Leach Aquatic and Recreation Center, two basketball courts, ball fields and Parks and Recreation Department office space on U.S. 401 in East Hoke.
- Orange County’s application was approved for $28 million in limited obligation bonds for equipment and school projects, and to refund previous financing at a savings of about $374,267.
- Charlotte was cleared to obtain $250 million in bond anticipation notes to pay for capital improvement projects on the city’s aging water and sewer systems.
- The City of Charlotte Housing Authority got approval for $9 million in bonds as part of a $15.9 million package to build 80 one- and two-bedroom units on land leased from Park Ministries northwest of the downtown area.
- Raleigh was approved for $200 million in bonds to improve water and sewer systems under the city’s Capital Improvement Program.
- The Raleigh Housing Authority gained approval for $18 million to loan to Primavera Seniors to build 164 one- and two-bedroom apartments for low-income residents in two residential buildings.
Folwell also noted that a number of local governments have made steady progress in rectifying their financial situations. He also said that the cost of labor and materials was driving costs up, and that will place “additional financial pressure” on some of the entities.
On the topic of inflation, Folwell referred to a recent meeting with Blackstone, a global investment management company. Folwell said that inflation “isn’t coming back, it’s already here.”
“We can’t be hoarders right now,” Folwell said. “If there’s something anybody doesn’t need right now, they probably should not purchase it.”
The treasurer went on to mention a shortage of products like machine parts for cars, air conditioning units, pipe, lumber and even rubber tires.
On May 25, Jon Gray, president and chief operating officer at BlackStone Group, met with the Investment Advisory Committee (IAC), a state body advising the treasurer on policies and investment strategies for the North Carolina Retirement Systems.
During the meeting, Gray told IAC members he expects a huge rebound in the economy, but also said that inflation will run higher than current market predictions. Gray said there will be wage pressure on businesses to get workers back to work, which could negatively impact industries with low profit margins.
According to Folwell’s office, the state pension plan currently has nearly $119 billion in assets and BlackStone manages over $2.5 billion in North Carolina pension assets.
Folwell was asked about the legitimacy of municipalities “crying poverty” in the face of vast amounts of pandemic-related relief and stimulus money coming from the state and federal government.
“We all have seen and we all have observed what happens when certain people win the lottery and certain other people win the lottery,” said Folwell. “You hear examples of people winning the lottery, and they are good stewards of that money. You also hear examples of people winning tens of thousands of dollars, and a year later they don’t have anything.”
Folwell said his point of the lottery analogy was to call attention to how that money is handled.
“We have got to make sure when this money [relief and stimulus funding] comes in, that we understand that we won the lottery. Not once, not twice, but maybe three times,” said Folwell. “And it’s really important that we start out like we’re going to hold out.”
Folwell warned about stimulus or relief funds rewarding behaviors by counties or municipalities that led to bad financial situations they are currently in.