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County investments are deemed safe

Fears sparked by recent news reports of King County’s serious loss of funds from investments gone awry have flamed up on Whidbey and Camano islands.

The Island County Treasurer’s Office has received numerous phone calls from special purpose districts, also called junior taxing districts, regarding the safety of the county’s investments.

The King County Investment Pool fund, which manages cash for about 100 agencies in that county, invested $153.5 million in commercial paper issued by “structured investment vehicles,” or SIVs, that sell short-term debt to fund their investments in mortgages and other loans. The mortgage-backed investment ultimately went into default.

The pool’s financial troubles are the result of a meltdown in the mortgage markets, according to a Seattle Times article.

Island County Treasurer Linda Riffe said she is more conservative with her county investments and does not consider commercial paper a sound option.

“It isn’t insured like other investments,” she said. “I wanted to assuage any concerns Island County residents might have.”

As a member of the State Investment Advisory Board, Riffe also noted that the Local Government Investment Pool does not invest in commercial paper instruments. The treasurer invests in RCW compliant instruments including, in addition to the Local Government Investment Pool, CDs and Federal Agency Notes, none of which have been involved in the recent problems making the headlines.

“The county investments are diversified and laddered, which offers more protection for those monies invested,” Riffe said, adding that she closely monitors the investments as well as the economic forecasts and market conditions in preparation for any adjustments necessary to protect county funds.

For questions regarding the county’s investments, contact Riffe at 679-7301.

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