City auditor Long explains audit delay

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 23, 2004

Compiling a city’s audit was never an easy task. According to Selma’s auditor, it’s only going to get harder.

Bill Long, Selma’s auditor, said that government accounting standards board pronouncement No. 34, known as GASB 34, is changing the way municipalities report their audits. &uot;Because of the GASB requirements, the audit started later than it would have,&uot; Long said. &uot;If an audit was 20 pages before the new requirements, now it’ll be 60 to 80 pages.&uot;

The Selma City Council received its fiscal year 2001-2002 audit in late March 2003. Both Long and Mayor James Perkins Jr. said that the new requirements, as well as personnel changes within the city’s finance department, caused the audit’s preparation to begin later than usual.

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Last week Councilwoman Rita Sims Franklin and others questioned the reasons for the audit’s delay. &uot;Good accounting practices means you have the audit by March 31,&uot; Franklin said. &uot;We’ve known about (GASB 34) for two years. It’s not that much trouble to close the books.&uot;

Four city employees have handled the city’s finances since 2002. Former Finance Director Bob Sanders was placed on administrative leave in October 2002. Former City Clerk Jackie Smith served as the interim finance director until her retirement after 25 years of service in January 2003. Former Finance Director Vickie Locke began working on March 17, 2003. She was placed on administrative leave during the summer of 2003.

Cynthia Mitchell became the acting city treasurer on Aug. 25, 2003, and was appointed treasurer in October.

According to Long, the GASB 34 requirements intend to make audits more meaningful by making governmental records appear like business records. In the past, governments and non-profit organizations used fund accounting, which meant that a fund was created for every activity.

For example, trust and agency funds existed for pensions. Enterprise funds accounted for government profits gained through projects such as golf courses.

Under the new guidelines, governments will list major governmental activities and business activities only. The old guidelines required governments to record transactions when they occurred. If sales tax was earned in October, but wasn’t received until November, it was recorded in November.

The new guidelines require that sales tax earned in October but received in November be recorded in October.

Long noted that the change in how revenues and expenditures are recorded isn’t the only change to the city’s audit.

GASB 34 requires governments to record the depreciation of assets such as cars, buildings, land and equipment. &uot;We’ll have to record the entries each year,&uot; Long said. &uot;Listing them wasn’t even required before.&uot;

Long also has to compile lists of the city’s infrastructure and its value. Infrastructure includes roads, bridges, sewers and street lights. &uot;They never had to account for it so cities and states had to go out and find values for it,&uot; Long said. &uot;Governments had to put lots of time and effort into determining what infrastructure it has and its value. It’s a time-consuming thing.&uot;

Long said he had attended informational meetings on the GASB 34 requirements where he was advised to begin the process as early as possible. &uot;That didn’t happen because of personnel changes,&uot; Long added.