Auditors: City’s finances ‘heading in right direction’

Rick Westbrook, owner of Westbrook & Co. PC, told Richmond City Council the city’s finances were “heading in the right direction,” at last night’s council meeting. Westbrook’s company conducted the annual audit for the financial year ending Sept. 30, 2008.
“2008 returned to a better cash position,” he said.
Westbrook said there was $380,000 of net income in the water fund, and the wastewater fund showed profitability for that year. The increased revenue was attributed mostly to rate hikes for water and sewer service and also to deferments on upgrades. According to the audit’s data, 35 percent of the city’s revenue is generated from wastewater and water funds.
Westbrook told the council that roughly the $338,000 transferred from the water and sewer fund for administration was a reasonable allocation.
City Councilwoman Terrie Stanley asked Westbrook when that money should be paid back to water and sewer funds.
“It’s not to be paid back. It’s permanent by nature; it’s not a loan,” he said.
He also told council they must make adjustments to fix a $47,000 shortfall in the funding of the City Hall municipal complex. Westbrook said payments for the complex are around $288,000.
Westbrook said the council could make an argument to cover it through the water and sewer funds.
“You got to figure it into the budget. Where can you get it from? The general fund? I’m not telling the council where they eral fund. The other is water and wastewater. They’re [water and wastewater is] using it, but not contributing to it [the facility],” he said.
He added that the municipal complex quarter-cent sales tax does not generate enough revenue to cover the debt.
The general fund may not be a good option either.
“The general fund is still financially destitute. We haven’t gotten those grants and tax dollars,” he said.
Westbrook gave praise to city Finance Director Melanie Allwood’s work. The audit stated that the financial statements presented a fair picture of the city’s finances.
In their findings, the auditors found:
• Fire and police departments had receipts and payments that were not reported or authorized through the city’s accounting system. The auditors recommend the balances of those funds and all receipts and payments be recorded on the city’s accounting records.
• A city employee was allowed to use the city’s park truck for personal use without tracking personal mileage. The auditors recommend personal mileage records be maintained so the city can comply with IRS reporting regulation.
• Travel reimbursements were inconsistent. The auditors recommend clarification of policy and procedures.
• Fuel charges for vehicles were not being tracked and auditors were unable to see how fuel was being used. A tracking system is recommended.
• Credit card receipts consistently did not include details.
• The auditors recommend time cards for city employees, which is considered standard practice.
“Don’t be alarmed that we have findings – that’s our job,” Westbrook said before he presented them in a Power Point presentation. He said his firm will work with administration for a corrective action plan.
The council, who received the audit at the meeting, have scheduled a work session to delve into the audit at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 16.
In other business:
• The council voted 7-1 not to hire two additional police officers. The action was taken after Jason Berning, head of the finance committee, made a motion for additional police officers.
“I think we have a good feel for the budget; we have only three months left. The school district is at risk of losing their SROs (school resource officers),” Berning said.
Julie Stevenson, a 23-year employee of the Richmond School District, addressed the council about the positive presence of SROs at the schools.
• The Public Safety Committee has been presented with an offer from the Ray County Commissioners and Sheriff’s Department to house the city’s prisoners at the county jail. Currently, city inmates are housed at Lafayette County. Bob Bond, head of the committee, said they are working through the contract and “it is a work in progress.”
• Stop signs at the intersections of College and North Main, and North Thornton and North Main will be installed in the next two to three weeks. Bond said the council also decided to keep the stoplight at North Main and Institute.
Look in tomorrow’s Daily News for more coverage on Tuesday’s city council meeting.

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