Friday, March 26, 2010

Sun Valley takes long look at finances

Revenue down $500,000 in fiscal 2009 but spending cut by $215,000

Express Staff Writer

The city of Sun Valley's assets decreased by about $470,000, or 4 percent, last fiscal year, according to an annual audit of the city's financials released Tuesday.

The audit assesses the city's spending and revenue for fiscal year 2009, which ran from Oct. 1, 2008, to Sept. 30, 2009. It will be sent to the state for approval.

During its Tuesday meeting, the City Council was expected to approve the audit—prepared by certified public account HCM Holmstead of Twin Falls—but had to schedule an impromptu meeting for Thursday afternoon in light of errors needing correction.

The Thursday meeting took place after the Mountain Express' press deadline. Councilman Nils Ribi, who brought forth a list of complaints pertaining to the audit Tuesday, said it would most likely be approved Thursday. Ribi said the audit's dollar figures are correct, but simple things—such as the names of some of Sun Valley's seven funds—were incorrect. And these are quick, simple changes.

"City staff sent this back five times to get it right," Ribi said at the meeting. "I think it may have to go a sixth time."

City Administrator Sharon Hammer said the city needs to turn its audit in to the state within six months of the fiscal year's end, which is cutting it close since that will be Wednesday, March 31.

Hammer said audits are usually completed long before six months after the end of a fiscal year, but this year's is unusual in that the city has opted for a more "detailed" comprehensive financial report in addition to a boilerplate audit. For that reason, she said, "challenges" have stalled completion of the audit, which the council discussed for the first time at Tuesday's meeting.


Ribi's concerns over terminology should be the last fixes, and simple at that.

Hammer said the "language" HCM Holmstead used in the audit isn't necessarily wrong but relies on typical terms used in financial reports, even though the city's specific titles may differ.

Councilman Bob Youngman said the city is paying the accountant to do it right, and relying on generic terminology is "unacceptable."

"The point here is that the heading on each of these pages says 'City of Sun Valley, Idaho,'" Youngman said. "It doesn't say 'General City, USA.' We want to be able to communicate to citizens what's going on here."

Youngman and Ribi argued that even though the numbers are correct, having different titles on the audit than on the city's financial reports would be confusing to taxpayers.

The audit shows just under $11 million in assets on Sept. 30. A year before that, Sun Valley had $11,460,000 in assets. The decrease is mostly attributable to less money coming in. Sun Valley collected about $5.1 million in FY 2009 compared to $5.6 million in FY 2008.

The difference is mostly attributable to a downturn of economic growth, evident in the $257,000 less in local-option tax collections and $150,000 less in state-shared revenue.

Another sign of slow economic growth was the city's general fund, which is the city's chief operating fund. At the end of September, the fund was down to about $1.7 million, a drop of about $762,000 in one year. The drop was primarily due to $429,000 less in building-permit fee collections for new construction.

Still, it could have been worse. Even though the city made less money last fiscal year, it managed to cut spending by about $216,000, a 4 percent decrease in expenses from FY 2008's $5.8 million.

Trevon Milliard:

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