Audit reveals clean books

Photo by Avan Clark

Photo by Avan Clark

ALBANY -- An independent auditor hired by the city of Albany to examine its financial books gave a mostly clean bill of health to city finances but did recommend that city officials make some adjustments, documents show.

Government auditor Mauldin and Jenkins reviewed the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the 2008-2009 fiscal year and found no major issues, Mauldin and Jenkins Engagement Partner Meredith Lipson told the board.

Lipson praised the city's ability to avoid what was projected to be roughly a $3 million shortfall through a reduction in spending.

"Because you all were able to hold the line on your expenditures, and you really did, you were able to come out on the positive," Lipson told Albany City Commissioners Tuesday.

In total, the city collected $52.7 million in revenues for FY09, which was down from $53.1 million the year before. The report lists the most significant variance as a $2.2 million decrease in sales tax collections.

Most of the city's revenues came from property tax collections, which were at $13.9 million, followed closely by $10.2 million from the Water, Gas & Light Commission.

Total expenditures were also down from the previous year -- almost 5 percent -- at $52.4 million. The most significant reduction, the report states, was in cuts to government expenditures of roughly $2.9 million.

Public safety, by far, took up most of the city's expenditures, topping out at $27.1 million. General government expenditures were next on the list at $8.9 million, followed by Public Works at $6.9 million.

The report does release telling information on the solvency of the city's enterprise funds, which are ideally supposed to support themselves through fees paid by users. The more an item is used, like sanitary sewer, the more money it generates and the more able it is to offset costs.

Two of the city's enterprise funds are doing just that.

The Sanitary Sewer Fund earned $15 million in 2009, which more than offset operating expenses of $12 million. The Solid Waste Fund did the same, bringing in $8.3 million in revenues to $8.1 million in expenses.

But four other enterprise funds are upside down, the report states.

The Airport fund, which does receive state and federal grants to offset the difference in revenues vs. expenses, required additional funding from the general fund to supplement declining revenues.

According to the report, the airport fund generated $728,191 in revenues but had $2.4 million in operating expenses. The report doesn't say how much of those expenses were offset by grants and the general fund.

The city's Transit fund is very similar. Revenues were collected totaling $495,279 but fell far short of the $2 million in expenses.

The Civic Center fund was able to generate $255,803 in revenues but created $1.5 million in expenses. Finally, the Municipal Auditorium fund had $52,565 in revenues but $184,395 in expenses.

The audit also makes some recommendations in the city's accounting and internal control systems that the auditors believe can be improved: tweeking of accounts payable, accounts receivable, debt transactions as well as internal control of Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority finances.

The audit also states that the city may not be in documentation compliance of the Economic Development Administration's Revolving Loan Program.

The audit also recommended that the city create a fraud risk management program and put controls in place to monitor the time frame at which it disperses grant funds.

Following her presentation, Lipson praised the city's finance department for its management of the city's various funds and the level of participation it provides in assisting Mauldin and Jenkins.