Sunday, December 10, 2023

City’s financials receive clean audit

by KATHY HUBBARD Contributing Writer
| March 8, 2022 1:00 AM

Sandpoint city officials were briefed on the financial statements and audit reports at Wednesday evening’s regular council meeting. Attending by Zoom were representatives from the city’s independent auditor Magnuson, McHugh & Company in Coeur d’Alene.

City Finance Director Sarah Lynds introduced Laura Parasida, manager of Audit and Assurance Services, from that company who gave councilmembers and the public an overview of what an audit is and what their role is in it.

Idaho code requires annual audits by an independent company. And, although it may seem obvious, independent means that this company has no relationship with the city.

“The purpose of an audit is to provide reasonable assurance that the financial statements are free from material misstatement,” Parasida said, “in other words, that your financial statement presentation is fair and in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles.”

She explained that they get that assurance by testing various aspects of financial activities during the year. The city’s fiscal year runs from October 1 to September 30. Parasida said that the firm had issued the city an unmodified, or what’s called a clean opinion.

“That means that the financial statements that the city presented to us were, in our opinion, fairly stated and we didn’t find any material journal entries or anything that needed to be posted in order to get them there,” she said. “So, it’s really great.”

The firm also audited funds received from the federal government to assure they were disbursed according to federal guidelines.

“We didn’t see any evidence of non-compliance. We didn’t see any deficiencies in internal controls that we felt needed to be brought to your attention or that we thought were an issue,” she told council. She also said that being able to give that opinion was a testament to the city’s finance department.

Following Parasida, Lynds gave a presentation of the financial reports from the fourth quarter of last fiscal year and the first quarter of FY2022. Particularly aimed at the new council members, Lynds explained how to read and interpret these reports.

The public has access to all of the city’s financial statements. They can be found on their website: Look under the tab “your government” then click on “finance and utilities.”

In other council business, officials approved a two percent cost of living adjustment (COLA) for regular city employees eligible to participate in Regence Medical/Delta Dental coverage effective April 1.

City Administrator, Jennifer Stapleton, told council that the city is making this proposal due to a number of factors. Rate decreases in premiums, offering employees choices in plans, less utilization of benefits are among them, but also because the city wants to be competitive not only in benefits, but in salaries.

She said that the city benchmarks against cities in other regions and wants to be proactive in the market which is becoming increasingly challenging. She also pointed out that often, in order to recruit the best candidates for open positions, the city is hiring at the higher end of scale.

“We have had a history with the city, especially over the last six or seven years, of being really proactive and looking at where the market is moving, and proactively moving our COLAs so that we aren’t stuck in a year where we’re way behind,” she said.

Stapleton also said they are already starting the budgeting process for next year. “We are projecting that we’re going to be looking at a COLA of three percent, or more likely, four percent in order to be able to stay with our benchmark. So what we’re talking about here is up fronting part of that COLA. We have budget savings that are already sitting in Salary and Benefit line.”

She said that this onetime expense would create an “equitable balance for our existing employees considering our hiring environment.”

At this meeting, council also approved the consent calendar that included approval of bills for payment in the sum of 1,003,926.10; an agreement for exchange of real property with Bridge Street, LLC, at First Avenue and Bridge Street, and the award of a contract for Pine Street’s sidewalk project.

During the public comment period, only one person spoke. Rebecca Holland voiced her concern about the exchange of property on Bridge Street and how that will affect bicycle access to City Beach and Sand Creek paths.

“This is important for kids. It’s not as important for us as adults,” Holland said. “It’s important for our community and you were elected to listen to the community, not to developers coming in and that’s where the energy needs to be.”

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