The buck stops here

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By AJ Vicens

When Mark Hubbard starts work each morning in the Jefferson County treasurer's office, he has hundreds of millions of reasons to pay very close attention to his job.

Hubbard administers the county’s 15 bank accounts and also manages Jeffco’s investment portfolio, which totaled more than $288 million as of July 30.

"It's interesting to get to manage money," the unassuming Hubbard said. "Eventually, you get used to it, and it's just numbers."

When Hubbard came to the treasurer's office in 1989, the numbers were smaller — the investment portfolio he and another employee handled totaled about $80 million. But over the years that responsibility has grown along with the county’s cash, and since 1998 Hubbard has been doing the money-management job solo.

Hubbard's line of work is not without some unusual experiences. He has seen his counterparts in other states go through terrible times — such as in the mid-1990s, when Orange County, Calif., went bankrupt as a result of shaky investment practices.

Hubbard has also had a few anxious moments related to the county’s bank accounts. A banker once called and said the county was overdrawn in one of its accounts by $1 million. Hubbard quickly moved some money into the account, and all was well.

Money invested by the county comes from several sources, the biggest of which is property taxes, but the county also collects taxes on behalf of other entities, like the school district and water districts. As that money rolls in, not all of it is spent immediately, and so some is invested. The county also has a 10 percent reserve policy for most of its divisions, and that money goes into the investment pot as well.

The county made about $13 million from its investments in 2007, but Hubbard predicts it will earn only about $11 million in 2008. As of Aug. 5, the county had earned $6,681,463 from investments in money market accounts, Federal Home Loan Banks, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bonds, and various investment pools.

Hubbard manages the investments with a careful eye on the stock market — and the other eye on when the county must pay its bills.

Several county operations have their own bank accounts. There are payroll accounts, accounts for the various county offices, property tax abatement accounts and others spread over three banks. Hubbard declined to discuss the well-known banks for security reasons.

"Most accounts are there for the ease of accounting," Hubbard said. "We haven't found a solution for operating in one place."

Hubbard estimated that the county pays out about $500,000 per day in checks that hit the banks.

"We've never bounced a check," Hubbard said.

The county pays out $12 million every month in payroll alone, including taxes.

Hubbard has become accustomed to managing the accounts and the investments. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t always on his toes.

"The big numbers get to be normal," Hubbard said, adding that, with fluctuating markets and economic conditions, "it seems like there's always something new.”

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com, and check www.columbinecourier.com for updates and breaking news.

Running a county with close to 3,000 employees involves big bucks. Just ask Mark Hubbard, the man who administers the county's bank accounts and watches Jeffco’s investment portfolio. A snapshot of one of his major monthly payouts, payroll:

• $3.7 million in direct deposits every 5th and 20th of the month.

• $1.5 million in federal taxes paid every payday.

• $200,000 in state taxes paid every payday.

• $1.5 million in retirement and deferred compensation paid every payday.