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Murky financial picture more clear now

The city of Sunnyside will soon be posting monthly financial reports to its website, keeping both the city council and the citizens up-to-date on the status of the city's finances, according to Interim Finance Director David Layden.

Speaking to the city's subcommittee on finance and administrative services yesterday evening, Layden said the city's financial information for the first four months of the year will be compiled in report form by the end of the month. The tentative plan is to present the reports to the council at the Tuesday, May 28, regular council meeting. The reports will also be posted to the city's website.

Councilman Francisco Guerrero suggested that the monthly reports be limited to about a page. Layden said that his reports would have a summary, a page of revenues and a page of expenses. The committee discussed what needed to be included in each report and also discussed receiving more detailed quarterly reports.

Layden also presented the subcommittee with an end-of-year 2012 report. He told the council members that the source of the difference in the balance for 2012 mentioned at the last finance meeting had been discovered and corrected. The discrepancy had been a difference of about $18,000 between a 2012 report run in February and a report run in March. City staff located the source of the late postings and Layden said the reports are now corrected and balanced.

Layden walked the committee through the 2012 report, noting areas of concern. Committee chair Jason Raines was able to explain some of the issues, particularly the reduction in balance of the garbage fund, which Raines said was partially due to the fire clean-up the city took over downtown. He said that money is supposed to be paid back by the property owner, and Layden said he would look into it.

Layden also noted the results of the city's last audit and warned the committee that many of the same problems will be found in the next audit. Although the city staff at the time of the last audit, including former Interim City Manager Frank Sweet, took immediate action to remedy the problems, those solutions will not show up until the 2014 audit.

The main problem was that the city was transferring money from its enterprise funds to its general fund without documentation that proved the transfers were legal. Further, according to Layden's calculations, the city transferred almost twice as much as would be legal with proper documentation.

Enterprise funds are run separately from the city's general funds and include the water and sewer system, the garbage fund and the EMS fund. The various systems act as if they are separate companies within the city. The funds are restricted because they are fee-driven instead of tax-driven, and any money going from those funds to the city must be justified. Layden said the city can legally allocate about $500,000 of those funds to the city, but in 2011 and 2012 the city took more than $900,000 from the funds.

Layden emphasized that the problem is now corrected.

The committee tentatively decided to continue meeting on the first Monday of the month at 5:30 p.m.

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