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Audit results better for city

State officials give the 2003 bookkeeping passing marks.

When dealing with a budget in the millions of dollars, the need for good bookkeeping goes without saying. But for the city, it often goes without doing.

That is, until now.

Representatives of the Washington State Auditor’s Office visited the island Monday to deliver a rare, positive review of the city’s 2003 financial statements, sparking hope that the city has reversed a bookkeeping curse it has suffered for over 20 years.

“The city did well, much better than past years,” said Assistant State Auditor Duane Strom, at a Monday meeting of the City Council’s Finance Committee. “You have a clean report, and that’s a very important thing.”

It’s especially important for a city that has filed its financial statements late 19 times in the last 23 years, and has been subject to several negative findings.

Mayor Darlene Kordonowy, who had called previous audit results “horrible,” expressed satisfaction.

“It’s been a learning process,” she said. “It’s been a valuable partnership between the city and the state and we learn something every year.”

The city has learned several lessons in the last two decades.

Lesson No. 1: Turn in your homework. In 2001, the city didn’t submit requests for over $200,000 in grants.

Lesson No. 2: Stay organized. In a review of city operations for a two-year period, 1999-2000, state auditors found that dozens of checks could not be accounted for and that billing records for local improvement districts were in disarray.

The books were such a mess that the auditor abandoned the entire review.

Lesson No. 3: Watch the details. In 1998, auditors found irregularities in invoices for over $20,000 of work not performed by a contract employee.

Despite the bruises, city staff and councilors agreed that the knocks were worth it.

“The audit gives a tremendous boost of confidence to citizens that (the city) lays it all out,” said Councilman Bill Knobloch. “I’m very confident for next year.”

New Finance Director Elray Konkel welcomed the audit’s annual checkup

“The audit provides a very necessary critique,” he said. “It’s half a report card on our overall finances and half on the way we do financial business.”

Strom praised the city’s passing marks and the struggle to achieve them. He added that his job of finding mistakes is a breeze compared to the city’s job of not making them.

“It’s much easier to be critical than to be correct,” he said.

Community Events, April 2014

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