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Crocker auditor says city's financial position has dramatically improved

CROCKER, Mo. (Dec. 2, 2010) — For the first time in years, auditor Marshall Decker said he’s happy with the city of Crocker’s fund balances.

“I have done this audit for several years and you had dogged it year after year,” Decker said. “You’ve kind of got control of the budget and expenditures and getting your bank balances back to where they should be.”

Meeting Thursday night with the city council, Decker reported that the city’s general revenue, street, and park funds are all out of negative numbers. The city’s largest governmental activities category is its general fund, which showed $331,314 of revenue, $261,873 of expenses, and a $69,441 transfer to cover an insurance claim.

“You finished the year in the black, $38,152; now for the city of Crocker, that’s quite an accomplishment. You remember those big goose eggs for years,” Decker said.

The city’s street fund had $123,496 of revenue and $97,557 of expenses with a $25,939 balance, along with a 91,924 sidewalk loan, ending the year with a cash balance of $124,950. The parks fund had a much smaller final balance but still avoided a deficit.

“All of your governmental-type activities were to the plus. That’s real good,” Decker said.

Decker said the city continues to show losses in the water fund due to depreciation, but a positive cash operational flow of $100,038 with net after-loan payments of $1,751. That’s nowhere near what Decker said would be an appropriate balance of 10 percent or about $44,000, but it’s better than a deficit, he said.

“There’ve been years when your water and sewer rates weren’t what they needed to be and you were operating in the negative,” Decker said.

Decker said city officials need to continue to work to increase the fund balances and said the city city should have about three months’ revenue in the bank.

“If you have another good year you should have your general fund built back up where it should be,” Decker said. “All in all, congratulations. You bit the bullet and now you can go teach New York and California how to do this … I’ll give you an A-plus for effort. I know it’s no fun.”

Alderman Lorie Layman, who is a bank official with the Bank of Crocker, concurred that the city needs to continue to control its finances.

“I am very pleased to see the audit in the condition it was. It has changed dramatically from when I came on,” Layman said.

“I would say dramatic is a good word,” Decker said. “The last couple of years I got frustrated … when you go negative, you are technically in violation of state law; you cannot spend more than one year’s cash plus revenue, and when you go negative, nobody hauls you off to jail, but you are in violation of state statutes, for what that’s worth. It’s just not a way to operate a city.”

Mayor Linda Wilson said she intends to follow Decker’s advice.

“On the audit report, council, I am very proud of you. We have come a long ways since we first came,” Wilson said. “We want to keep moving upward like we are going because the more money, the more things we can do to improve our city, and we have a lot of repairs to our city that need to be made, as you all well know.”

In other financial matters handled at Thursday’s meeting, aldermen accepted the recommendation of Robert Layman, the city’s director of public works, to accept Conoco as the city’s fuel provider.

“We’ve crunched the numbers on our bids for fuel; I think Conoco has got pretty much the best,” he said.

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