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City’s finance department cited for excellence again

By Staff | Mar 30, 2011

For the 24th consecutive year, the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) has awarded the City of Sanibel a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting, another acknowledgment that Finance Director Sylvia Edwards and her fellow department workers are successfully handing the city’s money matters.

The notification of the achievement was made during the City Council meeting on March 15, one week after the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report — which includes a complete assessment of Sanibel’s overall financial statements for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2009 — was presented to the mayor and his fellow council members.

As part of the 188-page document, Larson Allen LLP presented the city with their Independent Audit Report, which examines the financial statement of the governmental activities, the business-type activities, each major fund and the aggregate remaining fund information of the city. The audit concluded that the financial statements “present fairly, in all material respects, the respective financial position of the governmental activities, the business-type activities, the discreetly presented component unit, each major fund and the aggregate remaining fund information of the City of Sanibel…”

All in a day’s work for Edwards and her staff.

“The main thing was to make sure that every transaction has been accurately reported during the past fiscal year,” Edwards said on Monday, with the latest GFOA plaque sitting on her desk. “The auditor looks to see that everything has been reported, and reported accurately.”

Work on the city’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report took approximately three months to complete, submitted during the first week in January. Auditors from Larson Allen LLP spent two weeks going over the report with the Finance Department team, Edwards added.

“The City’s priority is to maintain Sanibel as a world-class, clean, environmentally and fiscally sound municipality,” the report, signed by Edwards and City Manager Judie Zimomra, reads in part. “Despite the continued economic downturn, Sanibel has maintained its strong financial position through prudent long-term financial planning and fiscal actions to reduce or contain fixed costs.”

Some of the information included in the report:

• In the Statement of Net Assets, under Primary Government, the city reported $144,645,736 in total assets and $50,322,187 in total liabilities, for a total net asset of $94,323,549. This includes $61,861,845 from governmental activities and $32,461,704 from business-type activities.

• According to the Lee County Toll System’s traffic reports, total annual vehicular count to the island has not exceeded 3 million since 2004. The total annual cumulative count is down by 16.6 percent from the 2001 peak year (3,460,437 in 2001; 2,886,605 in 2010).

• In 2010, the number of residential real estate closings declined from 144 units in 2009 to 124 units in 2010 while condominium closings increased from 86 units in 2009 to 119 units in 2010.

Edwards stated that the greatest hurdle of compiling this year’s report was the implementation of a new fund balance reporting method.

“(The city) also revised the fund balance policy, so that required a little extra work,” she added.

In addition, Sanibel received the GFOA’s Distinguished Budget Presentation Award, meaning that the report had to be judged proficient as a policy document, a financial plan, an operations guide and a communications device.

“A comprehensive financial report of this nature could not have been prepared without the dedicated efforts of the finance department staff,” the document declared. “We would like to express our sincere appreciation to this staff for their noteworthy accomplishments in the completion of this endeavor.”

Edwards offered a nod to former director Renee Lynch, who began submitting the city’s annual report for the award more than two decades ago.

“The award is important to us because it’s reviewed by our peers,” Edwards said. “It takes an entire team to achieve a goal like this. Each person has their own responsibility. I definitely could not have done this by myself.”