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City's financial troubles on the mend

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Newly appointed Sunnyside Councilman Francisco Guerrero reviews a document provided by Interim City Manager John Darrington. Guerrero was elected vice-chair of the Finance and Administrative Services subcommittee last night.

The city of Sunnyside's subcommittee on finance and administrative services met last night with two new members, a new interim city manager and a new interim finance director.

The committee, chaired by Councilman Jason Raines, first elected Councilman Francisco Guerrero as vice-chair before diving into financial information provided by David Layden, interim finance director.

Layden told the committee that Teresa Hanford had completed the bank reconciliation for 2012 before she resigned from her position at city hall. He said he was checking through numbers and had found four payments, instead of the usual two, to the Department of Retirement Services in March. He said it appeared the city was trying to catch up on late payments.

He said the balances for 2012 were off by roughly $18,000 and that it was probably a posting that was in the wrong place.

"In a $20 million budget the cash amount is only off by $18,000," said Interim City Manager John Darrington. "David is still working on it, but it's not that bad. I feel pretty good about the cash situation for the city."

Layden said the city has about $12 million right now, with about $4 million earmarked for the new fire station construction.

"We're not running out of money," said Darrington. "If you look down the line the general fund is probably in trouble, but we have enough cash at the moment."

Councilman Dean Broersma asked if the city's income is enough to cover its expenses.

"I just want to know that we're not going backward and circling around the drain," he said.

Darrington assured the committee that the city is making enough money to cover its bills.

Layden then went into accounts payable for the city. He said an agreement with Yakima Waste System, Inc. has been negotiated. The city underpaid for its garbage bill by about $45,060. Yakima Waste has agreed to settle for $10,129. The item will be part of next Monday's council meeting agenda.

Layden also said that he has requested a waiver for penalties on late payments by the city to several state agencies. The savings would be in the neighborhood of $3,000 if the waiver is granted.

The city is also delinquent on payments to the state court system for state fines collected by the city. Layden said the last monthly report was filed in September of 2012 for August of that year, and that the city owes about $250,000 for the six months, not including any penalties the city has incurred. Layden again said he's requesting a waiver for the penalties.

Layden then talked about the changeover of the city's financial software from the Eden system to the BIAS system. He said that previous finance personnel never closed out 2011 or 2012 on the Eden system because of a lack of information. In addition, the 2013 budget was never entered into the Eden system, so until the conversion is complete, it is difficult to compare where the city's finances are compared to the budget.

Layden assured the committee that the conversion to the new software will be complete before he leaves. He hopes to have the conversion finished next month, then go back through the Eden system and close out previous years while looking for any issues.

Layden said that local CPAs have offered assistance on the reconciliation efforts. The makers of the BIAS software are also offering help for $600 a month. Layden is working with both to find out what assistance can be provided.

In response to a question from Raines, Darrington said a monthly report will be provided on the city website and to council members as soon as the new software can be configured to produce the reports. It will keep both the citizens and the council updated on the financial status of the city.

Darrington said that when he had worked with Layden in the past they had created a bank statement-style report that people had found very useful, and Layden had produced a monthly explanation that assisted people in understanding the key points.

The final item of business involves a part of the BIAS software that will allow citizens to pay their bills through the website with a credit card. Darrington said he would try to get the item added to the agenda of Monday's council meeting if possible so the city can move forward with contracts and make the change happen.

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