La Paz County has a bank again for the county government. At the County Board of Supervisors’ July 5 meeting, County Administrator Megan Spielman announced Western Alliance Bank of Phoenix has agreed to handle the county’s finances, as well as those of the special districts within the county. These districts have their funds held by the County Treasurer’s Office.
Western Alliance Bank replaces Chase Bank, whose contract with the county expired July 1.
Spielman thanked Vanessa Burke of the Pun (pronounced “Poon”) Group for putting her in touch with Western Alliance Bank.
This is the latest step in the County’s attempts to restructure its finances following the finding earlier this year that the county’s general fund was insolvent. Independent consultants Jay Parke and Karen Ziegler told the Supervisors April 19 that the figures they had for fiscal year 2019-20 was the general fund was short by $3.4 million. They estimated that figure could top $4 million by the end of fiscal year 2020-21 on July 1, 2021.
Parke and Ziegler were helping prepare the county for their annual audit.
In their presentation, Parke and Ziegler said the county was borrowing from special funds to prop up the general fund. They said this was illegal, as many special funds are restricted as to how they can be used. They said the county needed to get their general fund expenditures in line with their revenues.
County District 2 Supervisor Duce Minor emphasized no funds from the special districts were used to prop up the general fund.
One side effect of the county’s general fund shortfall was financial institutions were reluctant to deal with the county. Parke and Ziegler said Chase Bank had decided they would no longer be serving the county.
On May 17, the county hired the Pun Group Accountants & Advisors to help with the county’s finances. The person leading the group working with the county is Vanessa Burke, a former Chief Financial Officer for the City of Stockton, Calif.
Spielman said it was Burke who put her in contact with Western Alliance, and they were willing to work with the county on establishing financial accounts. The agreement includes treasury management, a line of credit, and separate agreements with the special districts.
“They worked with us,” Spielman said. “Their customer service is outstanding.”
The county is now working to get everyone trained to work with Western Alliance.
Spielman said that Chase Bank has been very supportive through the entire process, even though their contract expired July 1.
Minor expressed his thanks and appreciation to everyone involved in the process of getting a new back for the county. He thanked Spielman for his thorough approach to the matter.
“I like her leadership style,” Minor said.
In information provided by Spielman, Western Alliance said they are regularly rated as one of the top banks in the nation by Forbes Magazine. They have assets of $43.4 billion. They have loans of $28.7 billion and deposits of $38.4 billion. They have 1,947 employees in 49 banking offices.