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Interim finance director continues to untangle city’s financial problems

Last night’s meeting of Sunnyside’s committee on finance and administration was mostly a report from Interim Finance Director David Layden on the status of the untangling of Sunnyside’s financial woes.

The first topic of business was the request for proposals to handle the city’s human resources and payroll. Layden told the committee that the city has received three proposals since the council decided to consider outsourcing the department. However, Layden said he has not had time to go over the proposals yet, since most of them were received earlier in the day. Interim City Manager John Darrington suggested that the proposals be presented to the council at the second regular meeting in June.

Layden also told the committee members that he is working with Human Resources Officer Anna Bullock to reconcile payrolls, working backwards from the current date to fix or verify each month’s payroll, and that the process has been ongoing.

The second item of business was a discussion of the city’s use of software it purchased years ago. The Tax Tool software was used by former Interim City Manager Frank Sweet, but Layden said he had not yet checked into the software.

Committee Chair Jason Raines described the software to the committee, saying it has been under-utilized, but offers tools to access government databases to make sure the city is paying what it owes. Raines said the software also has analytical tools that can help determine if the city is on track with tax revenues.

The bulk of the meeting involved discussion of the financial statement Layden provided to the city council at its last meeting, and also available to the public on the city’s website by navigating to Departments, Finance, City Finance, then Budgets and Monthly Status Reports. The document title is “Revenue & Expense Report - April 2013.”

Layden said the general fund started the year with a negative balance, resulting in the city needing to move $585,580 from the contingency fund to bring the general fund into balance.

Layden explained how the city had over-expended “quite a few” funds during its experiment with a two-year budget. Layden said much of that had to do with the employees apparently not understanding how to properly adjust a two-year budget after the first year. He said that no adjustment was made at all, meaning some of the city’s funds were in a “precarious situation” at the beginning of 2012.

Layden was quick to note that most of the funds had the revenue to cover the expenditures, but the budget itself was not adjusted, and state rules require the city to work within the budget.

The city has also been using enterprise funds to cover budget shortfalls, which has caused state audit findings. Layden said he’s put in place a way to document the percentage of city staff’s time spent working on enterprise funds, which will satisfy the requirements of the auditor’s office in the future.

Layden made several recommendations for adjusting the current budget when the time comes for creating the 2014 budget. Darrington promised that the new city manager would be schooled in the financial issues.

Committee members asked questions about several items on the report. One item of interest is a discrepancy in the garbage fund between what the city is being billed by Yakima Waste and what the city is billing its citizens. Layden said he suspects that some customers in Sunnyside are not being billed properly, meaning the city is not collecting enough money to pay its bill to the waste company. However, that issue has been a lower priority and he has not had time to track down the exact problem yet.

Layden said the council will receive a similar report on the first six months of the year, and will then receive monthly reports as well.

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