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Audit reveals ‘city is in good shape’

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Posted: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 8:00 am

An annual comprehensive audit of financial statements for the city of Gonzales indicates that “the city is in good shape,” according to financial experts who inspected the city’s records.

Mike Brooks with M&K CPAs reported to the Gonzales City Council last week that the accounting firm has “issued a clean, unqualified opinion [regarding the city’s financial statements], which is the highest level of assurance we can give that the financial statements are free of material misstatements.

“This, to us, is the most important statement in the financial report,” Brooks told the Council. “Overall, the audit was a success; it was positive.”

In examining what Brooks termed “a voluminous amount of information” from the city’s fiscal year which ended March 30, Brooks reported that auditors found “noting out of the ordinary – nothing I haven’t seen before and nothing that was so major that it couldn’t be fixed.”

Brooks tempered his enthusiasm with the admission that “there are certainly areas for improvement, which every city has,” but said the city immediately implemented changes and improvements recommended by the auditors. He pointed out that the financial report included only six comments from the auditors. Brooks said it is not uncommon for a city to receive as many as 20 comments to its financial statements.

Brooks praised the efforts of the city financial staff, reporting that “the city is going above and beyond the typical requirements of a city. The city should be proud.”

The audit presented to the Council revealed that the city received $768,000 more revenue than for which it had initially budgeted, and that the city finished the previous fiscal year with $862,000 more than it expected.

Brooks said that the figures reported are “a sign of a strong fiscal year.”

Addressing the city’s past financial concerns with specific employees, Gonzales city manager Allen Barnes reported that the auditors “did not find any malfeasance or [mis]appropriation by employees, which relieved many of my concerns.”

In an economy in which money can sometimes be hard to come by, there are those who appear not to need the city’s money. Brooks said the audit “found checks that were still outstanding from up to four years ago.” He speculated that the uncashed checks may have been for a very small amount, that the checks may have been written in error or that there may have been an accounting error.

Brooks admitted that there were “quite a few [checks, but] the material dollar amount was not significant, it wasn’t material, it wasn’t something that was going to misstate the financial statements. It wasn’t a material weakness, it wasn’t a material amount.”

In other financial business, the City Council embraced the recommendation to change the city’s fiscal year from April 1 through March 30 to Oct. 1 through Sept. 30, which is in line with most governmental agencies. The Council is expected to give final approval to the switch at its Oct. 2 meeting.

Tax rate amended

The City Council approved amending the effective tax rate for 2012-13, a change that costs property owners less but results in a windfall for the city.

The current effective tax rate is $0.2518 per $100 valuation of property. The new rate that takes effect Jan. 1 is $0.2329 per $100 valuation. The new effective tax rate is also expected to result in additional revenue of $5,000 for the city.

Personnel policy manual unveiled

The City Council reviewed a revised policy manual for city personnel, a larger document that replaces the manual currently in use.

Barnes told the Council that the new manual is “a huge difference – probably two to three times more information than the [previous] one.” He said staff members have reviewed the new manual and approve of it. Although not all employees have reviewed the manual, Barnes said they are “very aware of this by word of mouth.”

Barnes said department heads will discuss the manual page by page with employees.

The new manual addresses sick leave, vacation time, the Whistleblower Protection Act, “a clear drug abuse policy statement as well as clear outlines for drug and alcohol testing for all employees” and due-process disciplinary action, Barnes said.

“It’s pretty cut and dried, there’s no room for error,” Mayor Bobby Logan said. “That’s what I like.”

Mosquito control approved

The City Council approved an interlocal agreement with the city of Waelder for mosquito control in an effort to combat an outbreak of the West Nile virus.

Waelder City Council gave its approval to the agreement at its Sept. 4 meeting, which allows Gonzales free use of Waelder’s mosquito fogging equipment. According to the agreement, each city will pay professional application company personnel to disperse the insecticide, an amount Barnes expects to cost the city about $250 for each application.

“With the recent cold weather, this seems kind of a moot point,” Barnes said. He also pointed out that “Gonzales County has not had a positive test for West Nile [virus], either in human or mosquito.”

Barnes said the use of the Waelder equipment is a stop-gap solution for Gonzales, but that any application would provide “peace of mind” for Gonzales residents.

The agreement is effective through Dec. 31.

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