Rich­mond gov­ern­ment posts $16.9M sur­plus for fis­cal 2017

Stoney praises timely re­port as sign of move ‘in the right di­rec­tion’

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - FRONT PAGE - BY MARK ROBIN­SON

Rich­mond posted a $16.9 mil­lion sur­plus for the fis­cal year that ended in June, the Rich­mond City Coun­cil learned Mon­day as Mayor Le­var Stoney’s ad­min­is­tra­tion gave an on-time pre­sen­ta­tion of an an­nual re­port that had been late the pre­vi­ous three years.

The sum — about 2.4 per­cent of the of the city’s gen­eral fund for the bud­get pe­riod that ran from July 1, 2016, through June 30 — ex­ceeds what coun­cil mem­bers were an­tic­i­pat­ing to have left over.

“I’m cer­tainly ex­cited for the ad­di­tional rev­enue for the city and the help we can pro­vide our cit­i­zens be­cause of it,” said Chris Hil­bert, the coun­cil pres­i­dent and 3rd District rep­re­sen­ta­tive.

The sur­plus was dis­closed dur­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion of the city’s 2017 Com­pre­hen­sive An­nual Fi­nan­cial Re­port, an ac­count­ing of rev­enue and ex­pen­di­tures dur­ing the pre­vi­ous fis­cal year that each lo­cal­ity in Vir­ginia must sub­mit to the state.

Rich­mond has not turned the re­port in on time in sev­eral years. Dur­ing for­mer Mayor Dwight C. Jones’ sec­ond term, turnover in the

Fi­nance Depart­ment and the botched roll­out of an ac­count­ing sys­tem were blamed for delin­quent re­ports. Crit­ics of his ad­min­is­tra­tion pointed to the late re­ports as ex­am­ples of City Hall’s dys­func­tion.

In his in­au­gu­ral ad­dress ear­lier this year, Stoney promised the re­port would be com­pleted on time this year. Mon­day’s pre­sen­ta­tion was about three weeks be­fore the Nov. 30 due date.

In brief remarks Mon­day, Stoney praised the Fi­nance Depart­ment for meet­ing the dead­line and said the on-time sub­mis­sion demon­strated the progress his ad­min­is­tra­tion is mak­ing in City Hall.

“I’m happy to re­port this doc­u­ment clearly shows that we’re clearly mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion and con­tinue to strengthen Rich­mond’s fi­nances as we told our friends in the credit-rat­ing agen­cies on Wall Street that we would do,” Stoney said.

The coun­cil has al­ready stashed por­tions of the sur­plus in fund re­serves for four pri­or­i­ties: $2 mil­lion for the city re­tire­ment sys­tem; $2.4 mil­lion for a one-time, 2.5 per­cent bonus for the city’s gen­eral em­ploy­ees; $2 mil­lion for road and side­walk im­prove­ment projects; and $1 mil­lion for lead abate­ment and other health and safety projects in Rich­mond Pub­lic Schools.

The re­main­ing $9.5 mil­lion re­verted to the city’s unas­signed fund bal­ance, a sort of sav­ings ac­count that the city doesn’t touch, save for some kind of un­fore­seen hard­ship or emer­gency sit­u­a­tion. To use the money this year, the mayor would have to in­tro­duce a bud­get amend­ment, which the coun­cil would have to sign off on.

This is the sec­ond fis­cal year in a row that the city has tal­lied a dou­ble-digit bud­get sur­plus. For fis­cal year 2016, $13 mil­lion went un­spent. The ad­min­is­tra­tion warned the coun­cil not to draw down the one-time funds ear­lier this year, cit­ing con­cern that it could be detri­men­tal for the city’s bond rat­ing.

An es­ti­mate in a quar­terly fi­nan­cial re­port sent to the coun­cil in Au­gust pro­jected the sur­plus would tally about $7 mil­lion. Last month, the coun­cil staff pre­dicted the fig­ure could tally $15 mil­lion.

Ellen Robertson, the 6th District coun­cil­woman, said the coun­cil was an­tic­i­pat­ing a sub­stan­tial fig­ure and took steps to plan for it.

“We felt that it was go­ing to be a fair amount,” Robertson said. “That’s why we put some of those fund re­serves in place.”

John Wack, the city’s di­rec­tor of fi­nance, said the vari­ance be­tween the es­ti­mate in the quar­terly re­port and the fi­nal fig­ure in the CAFR was due to cer­tain de­part­ments un­der­spend­ing their bud­gets. He pointed to Pub­lic Works, which had $3.9 mil­lion left, and the Fire Depart­ment, which didn’t spend $3.8 mil­lion it was al­lo­cated, the CAFR shows.

Greg Bussink of Clifton-Lar­son-Allen, the city’s ex­ter­nal au­di­tor, told coun­cil mem­bers he is­sued a clean opin­ion in the doc­u­ment, mean­ing the city’s books were in order.

“That’s the best opin­ion you can get. That’s what you want,” he said.


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