Over a quarter billion dollars lazily sits in government coffers

COLUMBIA, Mo 1/7/14 (Analysis) -- Recent talk of property tax hikes to pay for more police and a new sales tax on Internet purchases suggests the city of Columbia, Boone County, and Columbia Public Schools (CPS) are hurting for money. 

But if financial statements are any guide, nothing could be farther from the truth.  In fact, cash on hand is so high local government accountants brag about it in their budgetary notes. 

Together, the County, City, and School District hold a combined $262,562,258.00 in so-called "net fund balances" after all expenses, restrictions, appropriations, and so forth are subtracted. 

The city of Columbia holds roughly $143 million in unrestricted, undesignated cash; Boone County around $47 million; Columbia Public Schools, $72 million
That's over 1/4 billion dollars, in taxpayer money, banked for reasons the budgets never explain

Instead of putting all that money to work for taxpayers -- or returning it -- the agencies pay for new subdivision infrastructure, a developer handout;  multi-million dollar office space; development tax incentives like TIF; vastly overpriced land and buildings; and other business-friendly subsidies. 

Between the three agencies, new office space alone -- city hall expansion, courthouse expansion, Roger B. Wilson building expansion, and the new CPS administration center -- has drained more than $70 million from taxpayer pockets in the last decade.  
A central Columbia TIF district may drain $100 million more from area taxpayers, as the city seeks to pay for new infrastructure it may not even need, retired public works superintendent Bill Weitkemper discovered

-- Mike Martin, MS, MBA for the Columbia Heart Beat.  Martin previously chaired the City of Columbia Finance Commission.