“I believe in saving dollars wherever we can,” said the state treasurer as she addressed members of Kiwanis, Rotary and Civitans during a Corinth visit on Tuesday.
The treasurer’s office runs the state bank, conducting more than $26 billion in transactions in a year’s time.
“Your bank is doing very well,” said Fitch, a Republican who took office in January 2012.
One of her first initiatives was a review of the state’s bonding authority. The office refinanced about $4 billion in bonds right away.
“When we did that, we saved about $33 million for the taxpayers,” said Fitch. “We moved a lot of variable rates into fixed rates because it’s a good time to do that.”
The office renegotiated fees, trimming another $600,000 annually.
Last year, the office invited the bond rating agencies to Mississippi as it sought to retain a favorable rating. Mississippi has had the “AA” rating for some time.
“They had not been in Mississippi in quite a while,” she said. “It’s important to get them here to see all of us, see what we have going on in the state of Mississippi, to talk about jobs and see the community involvement.”
Out of that also came a debt affordability study, which was released in January.
“It’s strictly statistics and numbers — how much could we do, what are the needs of the three largest agencies and the universities and the community colleges and so forth — what do they need for the next five years,” said Fitch.
The office also determined each Mississippian’s share of the state’s debt to be $1,790, a number that Fitch hopes to reduce.
Fitch also touted the return of the college savings plan known as the Mississippi Prepaid Affordable College Tuition program, one of two run by the treasurer’s office. The return of MPACT was announced on Monday.
“We came in and looked at this program, we looked at the sustainability and viability, and we said we have to pause,” she said. “We can’t afford to put any more burden on any of the taxpayers until we know this fund is sustainable.”
The program began in a time of double-digit interest earnings and, in the 15 years since, many states have closed similar plans, she said.
The shortfall of $82 million will be reduced but not erased by reopening the program, she expects.
In the realm of education, Fitch is also pushing for efforts to improve financial literacy among youth.
“We’re throwing them out into the world, throwing them into college, and they don’t have a clue about how to pay their car note, how does a mortgage work, compounded interest — it’s all new and foreign to them,” she said. “So we’ve done it a disservice.”
The office is developing an online financial literacy class geared toward youth with hope that the business community will support the effort with incentives.
Fitch, who grew up in Holly Springs, made several other stops while visiting Corinth.