ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - There are people in Bernalillo County government who are worried the county may not be able to pay its bills because of a cash shortage.
A few months ago, the county's investment portfolio changed a lot.
Treasurer Manny Ortiz took $70 million - the majority of the county's cash on hand - and bought bonds.
"We usually sell those bonds immediately - we keep them 60 to 90 days and make a profit," Ortiz said. "The market changed this time on us."
Now they can't access that money without taking a big loss.
The county has about one month's worth of operating expenses available as easily accessible cash.
"Every month we have about $15- to $20 million in expenditures, typically," said Deputy County Finance Manager Teresa Byrd, who added county managers discovered his investments in June. "We had just about enough money to make our obligations, but that brought up some questions."
Without a cushion, the county won't be able to access the rest of that portfolio - about $254 million - without risking a loss. That's something that already happened over the summer.
"We have sold $10 million worth of bonds and we did have to take a loss on it," Ortiz said. "I think the $10 million cost us $140,000."
So far, the county is meeting payroll and other bills, but they're putting off special projects like maintenance on buildings until money starts flowing back in.
County commissioners and officials now want the treasurer to change how he invests.
"The county doesn't know all the time when things are going to happen, when emergencies are going to occur, and that we'd need to be able to have cash available quickly," Byrd said.
The county should be in the clear starting in November. That's when $300 million in property taxes start to pour in.
The county says Ortiz will use some of that to keep more cash on hand.
Ortiz admits he invested a little too much, but defends what he did.
"If you keep your money in the bank, you don't make much money in interest," he said.
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