City gets current on all audits

Published 11:00 am Friday, May 30, 2014

The City of Vicksburg is in good financial shape with net assets of about $150 million, and liabilities of $38 million, according to the city’s 2013 audit released Thursday.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen accepted the audit at a special meeting Thursday with a 3-0 vote. Auditor Booker T. Camper said he would send a copy of the report to the State Auditor’s Office in June.

“This is a milestone day for the board’s quest to move our city forward,” City Accounting Director Doug Whittington said. “This FY 13 audit is the first one to be issued by the federal due date of June 30 of the following fiscal year since the 2004 audit report.

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He said the 2013 audit was the third audit completed since the board took office July 1. The 2011 and 2012 audits were completed in 2013.

“We are now in compliance with all federal and state laws, as it relates to audits of this city. We are now eligible for all grants available,” he said.

The city fell behind in its audits in 2007, beginning with the fiscal 2006 audit, and by 2011 the 2008, 2009 and 2010 audits were delinquent. In 2012, Moody’s Investment Services, a New York-based provider of credit ratings and risk analysis, pulled the city’s A-1 rating.

Moody’s cited insufficient financial information on the city’s creditworthiness because Vicksburg did not have completed 2008, 2009 and 2010 audits as the reason for pulling the ratings. The 2008 audit was competed in 2012.

Camper, who was hired in 2012 to get the audits current, completed the 2009 and 2010 audits in 2012. The 2011 audit was completed in July, and 2012 audit in December.

With the completion of the 2013 audit, Whittington said, “the city of Vicksburg is in great position financially as well as in compliance to obtain a bond rating again, while restructuring the city’s debt due to low interests rates at a potential cost savings.”

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said the board is moving to get a new bond rating.

“As we speak, we’re now in the process of trying to request a review on our rating, which will not cost us anything to make the request,” he said. “And if we can get our rating, I anticipate calling the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to a meeting to talk about how we can restructure the debt, because interest rates are low now, and this is the best time to do it.

“There’s a possibility that we can save $40,000 to $50,000,” he said.

Demery Grubbs of Government Consultants Inc. of Jackson, a government finance consulting firm, said Thursday a copy of the audit report has been sent to Moody’s.

Grubbs, a former Vicksburg mayor, estimated it could take Moody’s up to two weeks to compete the review, but added, “it all depends on how backed-up they are — how many other cities they have to review. It could be done in less than two weeks or it could take longer.”

Looking at the audit, Camper said the 2013 audit indicated the city had no material weaknesses, but had three “minor” deficiencies involving the reconciliation of accounts involving the city’s general ledger, and the reconciliation of cash payments for fines received by the Vicksburg Police Department. Camper and Whittington said the problem does not involve any missing funds.

Part of the problem with the general ledger, Camper said, involved a lack of manpower. He said the problem is being corrected with the transfer of former city emergency management director Anna Booth to accounting to handle the backlog, which was caused by the backlog in the audits.

Concerning the cash payments with the police department, Whittington said the problem involves getting different computer accounting systems to work together. The police department uses ADSI, which is a court accounting system that is not compatible with the city’s MUNIS accounting system.

He said he and Camper would meet with police and court department officials to work out a solution.

Camper said the three problems were an improvement over prior audits.

“In 2009, we had 12 to 15 deficiencies and in 2011 eight deficiencies,” he said. “In 2012 we had 6 deficiencies, and in 2013, we had three, so the city has done a great job moving in that direction.”

Flaggs told Whittington and Camper he wanted the problems corrected before work begins on the 2014 audit.

“I’m not accustomed to doing something when we’ve got a problem,” he said. “I can’t see a wrong and not try to correct it.”

Flaggs said he was pleased with the audit report, adding “I’ve never been so happy than to see us catch up so quick.”

“I’ve been fighting this battle for nine years,” North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield said. “It’s not about yesterday. Yesterday’s gone. It’s about tomorrow. Whatever happens from this day forward is on our watch.”

“Coming into office, we knew one of our biggest hurdles was financing,” South Ward Alderman Willis Thompson said. “Being out of compliance put us out of the running for grant opportunities, possibly borrowing money at a decent rate. It kind of set us behind on some things we needed to do.

“Getting everything completed in a timely manner and on schedule allows us to put that focus back on capital improvements and take care of some much needed infrastructure projects.”


About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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