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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of December 17 - 23, 2003


Ketchum gets ‘clean’
audit for 2003

Budget projections were in error

"I think it’s important to recognize
that we don’t have a (budget) problem."

Maurice Charlat, Ketchum City councilman

Express Staff Writer

Defying projections that it could deplete more than half of its monetary reserves in a 12-month period, the city of Ketchum this month was issued a clean bill of health for its finances in the 2002-2003 fiscal year.

Addressing the Ketchum City Council Monday, Dec. 15, Twin Falls-based certified public accountant Dennis Brown said the city’s finances were in excellent order at the close of the 2002-2003 fiscal year. The fiscal year at issue ran from Oct. 1, 2002, through Sept. 30, 2003.

"The city is really in a very healthy position," Brown said, noting that he had issued a "clean opinion" after assessing the city’s financial status.

Brown said the city did spend more than it collected in the 12-month period, but ultimately used only a fraction of what it was scheduled to allocate through its approved 2002-2003 budget. "The bottom line is, the city expended a little more than $100,000 in the general fund than it took in," the CPA said.

Indeed, the city spent $7,221,031 through its general fund last fiscal year, $105,153 more than it brought in.

However, in the 2002-2003 fiscal year budget, the city was scheduled to spend $918,000 more than it was projected to receive. The city was projected to bring in approximately $7,264,000 and spend $8,182,000.

Last summer, as the City Council started reviewing the city’s financial figures to prepare the 2003-2004 budget, city administrators had suggested that the entire $918,000 from the reserve funds might be needed to cover expenses.

"That didn’t happen," Brown said, noting that the city ultimately avoided spending more than $800,000 that could have come out of its nearly $1.5 million "fund balance"—or reserve. As a result, the city at the close of the 2002-2003 fiscal year recorded a fund balance of $1,382,042.

Brown told council members that a combination of two factors aided the city’s finances. After a questionable outlook in the middle of the year, revenues improved to nearly meet the projections set forth in the budget. At the same time, several individual departments cut expenses adequately to close the fiscal year with substantial budget surpluses.

In his last meeting as a member of the City Council, retiring Councilman Maurice Charlat said City Administrator Ron LeBlanc and other members of the council should be praised for overseeing a "spectacular" turnaround in the status of the city’s monetary reserves.

"I think it’s important to recognize that we don’t have a (budget) problem," Charlat said. "This council and this staff ought to be very proud of this report."

Council President Randy Hall—who was recently re-elected to the council amid challenges from candidates who questioned the city’s handling of its finances—asked Brown why the actual numbers vary so greatly from the somewhat dire projections put forth last summer. He asked where the budget "drama" that "nearly cost me my job" came from.

Brown said he believes the confusion among city officials, council members and the public over the state of the city’s financial affairs could have come from the way the city’s financial data were "presented."

Brown added that the city’s revenue figures were skewed by large infusions of property tax dollars in January and July.

LeBlanc said he believes the problem arose from the city’s antiquated accounting systems, which have been thoroughly revamped in recent months. "The old budget system was inaccurate and distorted the numbers," he said.

At the close of Brown’s presentation Monday, council members voted 4-0 on a resolution to accept and approve Brown’s audit.



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