PECULIAR — The Peculiar Board of Aldermen received very good news the night of Monday, February 3. Troutt, Beeman & Co., a certified public accountants firm, issued and reviewed the audit of Peculiar’s 2013 financial records.
“You’re on a pretty solid course,” said Butch Beeman, one of the accountants that examined the city’s records.
“We have a very positive report for you all,” he continued.
Beeman stressed the ease at which the process unfolded, as it has in previous years, because of the city staff’s cooperation and organization. In the first decade of this century, a mere seven years ago or so, the annual financial audits for the city were not as optimistic. Pages upon pages would accompany the audit, explaining how the city could improve on the previous year.
This year, there were no recommendations.
“We didn’t feel like there were items that needed reported to management this year,” Beeman said, explaining that he had “no difficulties” with the process.
“The fact that we’ve come this far is really a testament to how staff has dedicated themselves to improvement,” said Alderman Holly Stark.
Stark also recalled her first months on the Board when the audit report was returned with various recommendations for the city staff.
Homer Dunsworth remembers those days as well. “The town was on the verge of bankruptcy and no one knew,” the alderman said. Since that time, Peculiar has refinanced and navigated their way to a better financial standing.
City Administrator Brad Ratliff, who is accountable for city finance issues, received much of the credit along with Trudy Prickett, the Business Office Manager, and Ben Hart, Peculiar’s CPA.
“When I came to Peculiar seven years ago, one of many issues needing to be addressed was financial problems facing the City,” Ratliff said.
“The elected officials were, and still are, committed to professionalism and transparency in the City of Peculiar’s business operations. The audit for the City seven years ago, produced an unqualified (clean) audit opinion even though it contained several pages of significant needs for improvement. Each subsequent year we worked diligently to make those improvements. Over these past seven years the city has had three different auditing firms, an unwarranted State Audit and has proven the commitment of staff and our elected officials to stay on-path to a well-run organization.”
Part of the improvements that Peculiar made in 2013 included a more streamlined financial system that cut back on problematic journal entries and a more knowledgeable group of individuals handling their financial procedures.
City staff decided to use a pooling of cash method for the disbursement and receiving of funds — which was not a change in their accounting method, but rather a more efficient process — and the result was an eradication of most of the journal entries. Those entries were required to be made when a check was written to a specific city department and needed to be allocated into different funds. Basically this procedure caused a doubling of entries as monies were allocated in different directions, allowing for more mistakes.
“With the pooling of cash, that process gets eliminated,” Beeman said.
As for the other correction made regarding staff’s confidence in financial handlings, the City has made significant strides. Beeman explained that the knowledge of financial preparation and its disclosures gained over the past year by the staff has been great.
“I think the City has benefited itself, has upgraded itself, in that area,” he said, citing the addition of CPA Ben Hart.
Mayor Ernie Jungmeyer joined in with Alderman Stark in congratulating the City Staff as he, too, remembered his first years with Peculiar and the correctives given by auditors.
“This past year reflected all that hard work and commitment by the audit reporting no significant needs of improvement to management,” said Ratliff. “No letter to management pointing out significant issues to improve upon is a key to the citizens of Peculiar that their local government is both properly safeguarding and utilizing their tax dollars.”
City staff is not content with where they are now, however, as Ratliff and company are looking to improve even more in 2014.
“City wide, we know there are areas that we still need improvement, but this is a significant accomplishment for the management team and our elected officials. I say often that we are not perfect, but we strive to be the best. We will make mistakes, but once they are pointed out, we will fix them.”