Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Is the Art Assist program paying off?

Hopefully you remember this 'wonderful' idea proposed by Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop to provide low interest loans to individuals to purchase art. My original post on the subject contains the details of the offering, but to recap...

The County will take money that could be earning a higher rate of interest and will purchase a certificate of deposit that pays only 1% interest. They will purchase this CD from Key Bank who, in exchange for the non-market interest rate, will make low-interest loans available to individuals who want to purchase art.

According to the original information, under this new 'economic development' program, individuals who qualify can get a loan of between $500 and $2500 at an interest rate of 1% to purchase a piece of local art. The maximum amount that Key Bank will loan under this program is $25,000.

As I wrote at the time,

"So...instead of the County Treasurer, Wade Kapszukiewicz, getting the best rates for the county, he's agreeing to this investment which, according to his office, means that the county treasury will be out $7,881 (the difference between the going interest rate and the 1% that will be paid)."

As this program is costing the County $7,881 and since it's been about 6 months, I wondered how successful it's been to date. A couple of emails regarding this public information and I got an answer.

Since it was announced, only three people have applied for the low-interest loan. Only one loan has been issued and it was for $3,500, which is higher than the original parameters for the loan amounts.

Now, it seems to me that someone who can afford to spend $3,500 on a piece of art really doesn't need a low-interest loan financed by the county taxpayers to do so. And if someone was going to qualify for this particular loan, isn't it likely they'd qualify for a more conventional loan that you and I didn't have to subsidize?

I contrast this costly program to the recent - albeit, legitimate - concerns about county travel expenses. Sales tax revenue in the county is down from estimates (which should have been expected considering all the doom and gloom we hear from elected officials about how bad off everyone is) so the commissioners want to restrict travel expenditures, though their authority in this regard is somewhat limited.

This makes sense - but if they're going to go to such measures on the travel line item, I'd like them to pay attention to these types of headline-grabbing programs that are costly and do not generate anywhere near the return on investment they are touted to have. If we're really serious about cutting costs in the county, let's not waste precious investment income on a commissioner's pet project, either.

1 comment:

Tim Higgins said...

Maggie, Maggie, Maggie

These aren't the droids you're looking for...

Thanks for keeping this on the radar screen. It highlights once again, the consistency of government when trying to reduce waste. The only saving grace of this situation is that all but 3 people seem to have likewise forgotten this program. We can only hope that your posting does not stir up the memories of too many people wanting art.

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