The North Platte city council will consider a more growth oriented set of investments for part of the Newburn Fund, following a 45-minute discussion Tuesday.The Newburn Fund is a bequest that is dedicated to the North Platte city parks. The current balance is about $2.2 million. The principal of the fund remains constant. Only interest income can be spent.
Nearly 80% of the fund is now invested in safe but low-yielding bonds plus one certificate of deposit that is a holdover from previous years when the entire fund was in CDs.
The other 20% of the fund is currently invested in stocks.
After the crash of 2008, interest rates on CDs fell sharply, and in 2013, the council hired First National Bank to devise a better strategy than 100% CD investments.
First National investment advisor Stacy Auman told the council Tuesday that the fund has earned about $105,000 in spendable income since 2013.
Council president Larry Pederson said the investment strategy is too conservative.
“We’ve been so darn conservative we’ve shot ourselves in the foot in earnings,” Pederson said.
Auman explained details of various investment strategies as council members expressed interest in ways to earn more money. Veteran councilman Glenn Petersen led the questions, probing for ways to minimize risk but generate more returns.
Auman suggested changing the ratio of investments from the current ratio of 80% safe, low yield investments and 20% “equity” funds to a more balanced ratio – possibly 60-40 or even 50-50. He said some money might be invested in longer term bonds that are safe but have a higher return. Currently, investments are limited to short term bonds.
Whatever might be done, Auman recommended it be done gradually, over 3-5 years.
With encouragement from the council, Auman said he would return with two options in the near future.
The council encouraged him to do so.
“I’d like to think we could get to a 50% ratio and not take 10 years to do it,” Pederson said.
The discussion was held during a work session before the regular council meeting. No action was taken.
In other business, the council:
• Voted against moving the meeting start times to 5:30 p.m. instead of 7:30 p.m. Councilman Martin Steinbeck, a teacher at North Platte Community College, has said he might not be able to attend earlier meetings when college is in session.
The council voted 4-3 against the change, with Lawrence Ostendorf, Larry Pederson, Jim Carman and Steinbeck voting no.
• Agreed on first reading to vacate part of an alley near Philip and Jeffers. The topic will be considered two more times, after a motion to suspend the required three readings was defeated. Councilman Jim Carman said the change might intrude on a homeowner there.
• Approved a conditional use permit to convert a garage into a mother-in-law’s quarters at 1913 William Ave., with the stipulation that if the property is sold, the building can no longer be used as a living quarters.
• Approved a special permit for a beer garden downtown from 6 p.m. -1 a.m. on Saturday evening Aug. 19 for a pre-eclipse music on the bricks celebration.
• Approved the reappointments of Pat Smith, Greg Wilke and Don Weber to the city planning commission.
• Approved a Habitat for Humanity housing project at 17th and Buffalo Bill Ave, near the Buffalo school.
• Awarded an $89,000 contract to Beveridge Well Drilling for a sewer connection.