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City planning to open books for analysis

The Suffolk City Council is poised to call for an independent analysis of the city’s financial records next week.

City lawmakers, during their meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, will discuss n and likely put to a vote – a motion to hire an outside firm to do a financial analysis of the city, with results being delivered directly to council.

“It’s no implication that anyone has done anything wrong,” said Mayor Linda Johnson. “This would be a financial snapshot of the city, an overview showing where our money is going, where it has gone and where we sit today.

“We have new people on council. This would be the starting point of understanding where we are financially … and it would have everybody reading from the same sheet of music.”

The city has annual audits done by an outside accounting firm; the current audit, now under way, should be finished by November, said Interim City Manger Jim Vacalis. Historically, the audit’s final report has been presented to the city’s management team, then to council members.

The financial analysis would take a detailed look at the city’s entire financial picture – liabilities and assets, obligations, as well as moral obligations, Johnson said. It would also include recommendations of fiscal practices that may need to be implemented to build up and protect the city’s fund balance.

The analysis could also identify other ways to save taxpayer dollars, such as by refinancing bonds, Johnson said. The council voted to refinance one bond last month, a move that saved the city $737,000 immediately and $1.2 million over the life of the bond.

“That’s the exact thing I want to see a lot more of.” she said.

Both Vice Mayor Curtis Milteer and Councilman Charles Parr said they are in favor of have the independent fiscal review done.

“I strongly support it,” said Milteer. “We want a true reading on how much cash we have on hand.

“We need to have an audit to make sure our finances are stable. I’m for freezing all positions until we find out more about the financial position of the city.”

Parr called it a “good business decision,” saying that he believes the city, like any business, should go through periodic fiscal reviews.

Having the report made directly to lawmakers will alleviate past concerns that not all council members were kept abreast of city information, Milteer said.

“I received very little information from management in the past,” he said. “Everybody wasn’t told the same thing at the same time.”

Though he wasn’t aware of the proposal for an independent analysis, Councilman Charles F. Brown on Thursday said he would probably support it. Before making a final decision, he said he wanted to know the cost and expected outcome.

“It’s not a bad idea,” he said. “I wouldn’t object to it if it is the will of council … and if that’s what we need to get the confidence of the new council.”

Councilman Leroy Bennett said he doesn’t believe the financial analysis is necessary, since the city’s audits are conducted and certified by an independent firm.

“I don’t see the point. The books are supposed to be open.”

allison.williams@suffolknewsherald.com