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State officials have minor concerns with Sunnyside audit

The Washington State Auditor's Office sent a management letter to the City of Sunnyside, which is one step below a finding, for the accountability audit conducted for the year 2003.

Auditors pointed out four areas that were not addressed between the 2002 and 2003 audits, according to Mindy Chambers, communication program manager for the State Auditor's office.

In the letter to the city, Audit Manager Susan Remer said that the city's internal controls and compliance with bond covenants could be improved. The items were not significant enough to include in the reports, but were recommendations reiterated to city staff.

Sunnyside Interim Finance Director A.J. Housler said each of the areas of concern have been addressed by city staff.

"As the finance director I sent out a memo that I didn't want to see repeats again," said Housler. "We don't expect this to happen again."

The first issue was complying with revenue bond earning requirements. In 2003, auditors determined that the city had not met its utility bond earning requirements for the year. Housler said in March of this year the issue was resolved as the city lowered the bond covenant from 140 percent to 125 percent. According to state auditors, the city was earning 82 percent of the 140 percent needed to pay the bond.

Housler said most cities only need 125 percent. The 140 percent rate was what cities had their bonds at 25 years ago, said Housler. He added that by lowering the rate the residents of Sunnyside won't receive higher utility bills.

Two other areas auditors pointed out were timeliness of deposits. Auditors noted that the parks and recreation department was holding deposits for seven to 13 days. The state recommended that all cash receipted at the Parks and Recreation Department be reconciled and deposited within 24 hours, which is in accordance with state law.

Housler said that it was during the summer months that money not being deposited in a timely manner.

He explained that it may have been corrected or was about to be corrected last summer when the city was audited.

He added that it is an issue that has been corrected for some time and that City Manager Bob Stockwell is overseeing and has guaranteed that it will continue.

Also not being deposited in a timely manner was inmate commissary and trust fund accounts.

Auditors found that money for the commissary account and trust fund account were being deposited between two and 27 days after being received. The state law of depositing within 24 hours also applies to these city accounts.

Within the last month Sunnyside Police Chief Ed Radder wrote a policy saying deposits will be made in a timely manner.

"We got assurance from the police chief that this will be taken care of," said Housler.

He said that it was an issue that slipped through the cracks from the 2002 audit.

"We had an agreement with the auditor's office to make those deposits two to three times a week," he said, adding that somehow it was never put into place.

The final area auditors pointed out was documentation for Sunnyside Fire Department write-off accounts.

Housler explained that the city ambulance service has to write-off any remaining balance not covered by insurance carriers, such as Medicaid. In 2003 the department wrote-off or adjusted $323,510, but only showed records of $27,807 in write-offs and $13,024 in net adjustments.

He said that now the city has a written policy that supports documentation for writing off expenses.

Housler doesn't expect any future issues concerning the four areas.

He said he doesn't know why the issues weren't resolved earlier.

"I wasn't here, I don't know. Bob wasn't here, he doesn't know. There's no excuses now because it's all in writing," he said.

The 2003 audit was the sixth for the city without a single finding.

Areas reviewed in the audit include cash receipting, billings and account receivables, payroll, conflict of interest, bid law compliance, open public meetings act, long term debt, revenues and expenditures.

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