$10.7M of uncommitted hospital sale money, says county deputy auditor

By Gary Huffenberger – ghuffenberger@wnewsj.com

WILMINGTON — There’s real potential for the dollar amount in the Clinton County Legacy Fund to be substantially increased — which would generate greater revenue to go toward grants that benefit the local community.

Earlier this year Clinton County commissioners established the Legacy Fund with a start-up amount of $10 million, which were part of the proceeds the county has received from selling county-owned Clinton Memorial Hospital. This week, the county’s legal counsel and a deputy county auditor came to the commissioners office, bringing with them spreadsheets that broke down the receipt and use of proceeds from the hospital sale

As of this month, the unspent and uncommitted proceeds from the sale of the hospital calculate to $10,703,662, according to Clinton County Deputy Auditor Logan Bailey

She said the county does not have all of that $10.7 million in hand today to use as it may. Some of it is due back over time from loans or advances, and some of it currently has a restricted use and thus will involve petitioning a court to get the dollars moved out of a specific fund into the General Fund.

The hospital’s price tag was $82 million. But per the terms, on the day the sale closed the payment of the hospital’s large bond debt was due, and along with the closing costs, the county netted $44.5 million to be collected over time, said Clinton County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Andrew McCoy.

Of that net amount, $17 million in deferred annual payments was to come to the county over the course of 10 years at $1.7 million a year plus interest. To date, the county has received all but two of those annual payments, McCoy said.

Dollars from the sale have previously been spent to pay off all outstanding county debt, to purchase the MARCS emergency radio tower system, pay for Munis software, make major improvements to the courthouse and other county-owned buildings, and to provide a $300,000 no-interest loan to the Murphy Theatre Community Center.

And of course $10 million was invested via the Legacy Fund.

Clinton County Commissioner Mike McCarty said the tracking work performed by Bailey and McCoy helped to clarify what is the revenue associated with hospital proceeds versus income derived from other sources.

“I want to know what was generated from the hospital [sale] and what’s left, and I think it’s a taxpayer expectation,” McCarty said Thursday.

At the Wednesday appointment with commissioners, McCoy said the current board of commissioners and its predecessors have expressed an intent that hospital proceeds should not be used for daily operational expenditures, but rather be maintained as a legacy to benefit future generations.

He added, “It’s been hard work keeping the [county government] budget down when the [hospital sale] money was there to spend. It’s been hard to tell people ‘no’ when the money’s coming in.”

Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.