Morenci city council receives good audit report 11.12.08

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Finally, some good financial news for city officials during the annual audit.

Auditor Philip Rubley gave city council a positive review of its budget for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2008. The good news ended deficit problems that arose in previous audits.

“This is the best report you’ve had in long, long time,” Rubley said. “You took a deficit of $32,776 and turned it into an excess of $110,967. You’re making good progress.”

That’s an important step in the right direction, he said, but still short of where he would like to see the city’s financial standing. He recommends a fund balance of 25 percent of the general fund and the current standing puts the city about halfway there.

“You actually reduced your expenditures by $92,410 in one year,” he noted.

Revenues came in at $18,557 more than predicted, creating the fund balance of nearly $111,000.

Looking at state funding—the source of nearly a quarter of the city revenue—Rubley cautioned council to prepare for a “less mode.”

“It’s important to keep [the budget] in shape during these tough times,” Rubley said, “but you’ve done a great job.”

Rubley said the non-major funds were in good shape with the exception of the Town and Country Festival fund. A deficit of $9,000—some from costs in the previous year—will have to be covered by the general fund or another source of revenue.

The Local Streets fund ended with a balance of $59,484; Major Streets ended at $40,018; Fire Equipment at $44,373; and Morenci Area EMS at $26,008.

Utilities funds are often a source of trouble for communities, Rubley said, but Morenci’s shows an income of $102,144.

“You’re covering your costs,” he said. “You’re in good shape.”

The Internal Service fund—showing the costs and usage of city equipment—indicates good utilization.

Rubley said the city follows good accounting practices that give a fair presentation of finances to the public.

The audit’s general comments included a concern about “segregation of duties” in which one person has control over two or more phases of a transaction or accounting function.

That’s due to the small size of the staff, he said, and with the oversight practiced, he doesn’t see the situation as a problem. The only other recourse is to hire another employee.

Rubley also mentioned the city’s fund deposit policy, noting that three-fourths of the city’s bank deposits would be at risk in the case of bank failure. Auditors are required to discuss the issue, he said, and council should remain aware of the situation.

LOANS—Council member Keith Pennington asked Rubley if the city should continue with short-term financing rather than paying off debt. Rubley suggested continuing with financing.

“There’s too much unknown,” he said. “It’s great to pay off debt, but the way things are now, I’d think you’d be better to keep your cash position strong.”

LIBRARY—Library director Colleen Leddy noted that the city’s good financial standing is due in part to the library being required to use about $20,000 of its own funds to pay for expenses last year, due to budget reductions.

“The audit shows that money was given to the library,” she said, “but it doesn’t show that $20,000 came from the library. Will that eventually come back to the library?”

Rubley said that wasn’t a question for him to answer and no answer came from council, either.

CURRENT STANDING—Pennington stated after the meeting that it’s important for taxpayers to remember that the audit gives a picture of city finances at the conclusion of the fiscal year in June.

“It’s not any reflection of where we are today,” he said. “It’s not a correct assumption that those kind of savings will be realized this year.”

The city has incurred some added expenses, such as bringing police officer Frank Cordts back to full-time status, and Pennington estimates that the actual savings available in the current budget year could be half of what was presented by Rubley.

“The good report was a result of the drastic measures the council and the previous administration took to curb expenses,” he said, referring to layoffs and budget-cutting at the library and fire department.

Taking out loans for equipment purchases also helped improve the city’s standing, but at the beginning of the current fiscal year, about $50,000 was still owed.

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