Cedartown City Seal

The final numbers are in for the City of Cedartown's 2016 fiscal year budget, and they came back from auditor's Mauldin and Jenkins with a clean bill of health.

The unmodified opinion was presented to the Cedartown City Commission during their June 12 meeting, insuring that the final tally of spending for the FY 2016 all added up and could be proven without any issue.

The final tally of numbers showed $6,827,000 in revenue generated from during the budget year starting in January, and $7,450,000 in expenditures.

At $2,289,000, property taxes accounted for the largest share of revenue into the city coffers, followed by $1,279,000 in sales taxes for the year.

Revenue over $500,000 also saw $873,000 collected in miscellaneous taxes, $622,000 in licenses and permits and $741,000 in franchise taxes.

In expenditures, Public Safety costs for the Police and Fire Departments had the greatest amount of money used for the year, totaling $3,879,000 combined for the pair of departments.

General government costs totaling $1,523,000 contributed to the second largest expenditures for the City of Cedartown, with Health and Welfare costs at just over $1 million being the third largest area of spending in a general sense.

The city's budget was balanced and savings calculated in for the year with the help of special funds transferred into the city's coffers, city manager Bill Fann explained.

Mauldin and Jenkins had some bright spots to note in their report. The percentage difference between expenditures and the growth of the fund balance continues to increase, going from 24 percent saving of money versus spending up to 47 percent of savings versus spending for the year.

Fann said that increase means the city has more funds immediately on hand and available for emergency situations, such as for emergency spending during a severe natural disaster, or if expensive emergency repairs were needed on equipment.

The more than $1.5 million on hand for a six month emergency is twice what is considered the industry standard, Fann said.

"That's something I'm particularly proud that we have achieved, and I hope that we can continue to grow that number as time goes on," he said. "I think we'll be able to continue that trend."

So if the city had to go it without annual revenue streams to provide income for any reason, they'd have enough cash in the bank to cover six months of keeping the government functioning without having to lay off workers, cut services or shut down completely.

He also noted that increases in the amount of revenue generated on the city's water and sewer services are also good news, because it means that with overall revenue increases and smart savings that there won't be a need for raising rates on water bills anytime soon.

Cedartown's audit also included some other positive notes Mauldin and Jenkins felt it was worth noting. That included a $390,000 in outflows for construction, installation and purchase of new capital assets, which increase the city's overall net value and makes it more likely to find attractive rates when they are borrowing money.

City officials also kept up bond and lease payments for a total of $468,000, and got a $514,000 transfer in from SPLOST to account for most of the off-balance reporting between revenue and expenditures for the year.

Much of the capital assets purchased for the year were covered by SPLOST funds,, along with the bond payments.

When all was said and done for the year, Mauldin and Jenkins reported that in total, the city had more than $3.5 million left in the bank, and increased the fund balance by $486,000.

Like with other local governments, Mauldin and Jenkins also included a long list of footnotes and required reporting items.

That included a long list of required items to report on costs of covering pension obligations and retirement obligations, but since the city makes bulk contributions annually to the Georgia Municipal Association, Fann said that those items are mainly there for legal reasons.

Also like most local governments, due to its size it doesn't have the same staffing capabilities as larger cities in Georgia who can split the duties of the chief financial officer with another employee to ensure that review of journal entries by more than one employee was being completed, and that duties are properly segregated.

Fann noted that this is a problem with most cities the size of Cedartown or smaller, since hiring extra employees to keep the financial duties of the city segregated costs more money.

Mauldin and Jenkins also recommended in an additional note the city commission should put in place a formal fund balance policy to be in compliance with the Governmental Accounting Standards Board's requirements.

They also recommended the city review capital assets and how they play into annual reporting "periodically during the year to ensure that only additions to capital assets are being recorded in these project accounts so that the year‐end process of capturing additions to capital assets and calculating depreciation expense is more efficiently and effectively accomplished."

The firm asked for this request after stating that they had to reclassify several entries in the final budget number submitted for testing by their accountants, and ensure that all the numbers balance out correctly for the FY 2016 figures.

Ultimately audits are important for two reasons for local governments. First, they ensure that no bills have gone unpaid or any funds missing for any reasons. Just as important it shows the state government they are acting responsibly with taxpayer funds, and thus can be awarded grants and state funds for a variety of projects that otherwise would be paid for out of local tax dollars.