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City administrator rebuffs mayor on city finances
Mayor Al Krieger implied during a public address this week that the city is on the precipice of financial crisis, saying that the city's “rainy day fund” was in “serious jeopardy.”
But not everyone in City Hall agrees with the mayor's assessment.
“The idea that the city is in some sort of financial problem is absolutely, 100 percent false,” said City Administrator Greg Wilkinson. “We are in the best financial shape in over four years. So we are optimistic for this year.”
Wilkinson said that despite the budget cuts and fund sweeps from the Legislature, the incessant recession and poor tax revenues, city employees have pulled together to make the necessary adjustments to place the city on sound financial footing.
Mayor Krieger said Friday that the finance department and the city administrator failed to give him the information he requested.
“Despite repeated requests, I was not provided any information relative to the financial situation in the city of Yuma by the administrator even though that is his job. I had no numbers or information.”
Krieger said other departments, such as the fire department, gave summaries of their activities, but not the administrator. “I just received two thick binders from the finance department and nothing else. And Mr. Wilkinson provided me with no information at all.”
Krieger said the information may have influenced the State of the City address he gave Wednesday.
For evidence of the city's financial health, Wilkinson referenced the city's fund balance, which is separate from the general fund and is used for contingency spending and other expenses.
Every year the city tries to maintain a fund balance of $11 million, which is about 18-20 percent of the general fund.
“After cutting costs and number of other things, we actually grew our fund balance almost 30 percent and at the end of the year, we were at nearly $15 million,” Wilkinson said. He added that if the trend continues, the fund could be as large $20 million at the end of this fiscal year.
“That would be about 40 percent of our general fund. Any city that finishes the year with a 40 percent balance would be jumping up and down with joy.”
Wilkinson said the fund balance will allow the city to replace equipment and tend to other obligations the city has had to delay over the past few years due to a lack of funds.
In addition, Wilkinson said, if the council approves, the city is looking to cut development fees between 40-60 percent sometime this year. “That is not a picture of a city that is in bad financial shape.”
Wilkinson added that while the city does have some problems, they are hardly the kind that could lead to imminent financial ruin.
“We have bonds we took out in 2007 to pay for the water and sewer plant. And yes, a lot of development that was supposed to occur to pay for it hasn't happened. So that's a problem area. But it's something that's manageable, and we are working on a number of things to try to help in that area.”
In other good news, Wilkinson said the city has increased revenues, controlled expenses and maintained its Fitch's bond rating.
“We are actually looking forward to 2012 because things are starting to turn for the better.”
For a copy of Fitch's credit rating report on the city of Yuma, visit www.businesswire.com/news/home/20110622006180/en/Fitch-Affirms-Yuma-AZ-GOs-AA--Improvement.
Darren DaRonco can be reached at 539-6857 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @YSDarrend or on Facebook at www.faceboook.com/YSDarrenD.