Despite positives, actions are necessary

Published 12:52 am Friday, June 5, 2009

Independent auditors from Borland Benefield went over its findings with the Selma City Council during a work session Thursday evening. The council didn’t take any action, but it did ask several questions. It’s likely the council will accept the audit at its next regular meeting, June 9.

Fiscal 2008 was the last year former Mayor James Perkins Jr. served in office. The city was in sound financial shape, generally with assets coming out ahead of liabilities. The city received an unqualified audit, which is the best one could get. However, the general fund budget — the main city operating budget — had its dips. It budgeted in a deficit, meaning it couldn’t make expenditures. Council members knew this coming in November. Revenues plummeted for nearly a year, then really took a dive as the recession sunk in.

Then came the recommendations by Mayor George Evans to cut salaries and trim employees through layoffs and consolidation of some departments. He also recommended a shorter work week and limited hours for some workers. These were hard moves for the city to make. Families and workers suffered. Indeed, even a majority of the council members took a cut. Some council members opposed this move.

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But those auditors, those very auditors hired by Perkins, commended the city Thursday night for taking that action to keep the c

ity financially stable for the upcoming fiscal year.

The auditors also said the city’s financial department needs new software. It’s currently working off an antiquated computer software system known as DOS that harkens back to the early, second release of Microsoft Windows operating system. To allow the heart and soul of a municipality’s financial network to become so outdated seems nearly ludicrous. Money collecting, transferring and billing seems the core of operating the business functions of the city. No wonder so many miscues have occurred without seeming reason.

The city should rectify this situation as quickly as possible, even if it needs to bite off a piece in some other direction to provide the funding for more expensive software.