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City of La Joya celebrates audit

City of La Joya leaders are celebrating obtaining an unmodified opinion on the 2013-2014 audit after struggling for years to get all of their paperwork in order.

An unmodified opinion means the auditor found the city’s financial statements to be a true and fair view of its finances. City Manager Mike Alaniz said auditor Oscar Gonzalez gave the city a good report.

City of La Joya Seal“We used to, unfortunately, have some findings,” Alaniz said. “The finance department wasn’t able to finish up on reconciliations like they should. We kept struggling in that area.”

Out of seven findings from 2013, the audit found the city fixed six of them. The seventh found that city should immediately segregate duties in the utility department and properly supervise things like meter reading input into the system, the generation of bills, collections and disconnections.

According to the report, the auditor found a single utility billing clerk has a broad range of responsibilities. In addition, several delinquent accounts had not been disconnected in accordance with city policy, the report states.

“Various customer accounts were purposely allowed service when disconnection fees and procedures applied,” the report states.

The city’s response states that other personnel have been assigned to duties as recommended by the auditor. It adds that the city administrator and finance director are monitoring accounts internally to enforce delinquent accounts.

Alaniz said it’s a monthly process, and when the auditors come back in to the office, they’ll see it’s been corrected.

A second item was listed as not corrected on the audit report, but Alaniz provided a letter from the auditor reflecting it had been fixed.

“This shows that the City of La Joya is on the right track to improve the city’s finances and recordkeeping,” Gonzalez states in the letter. “Keep up the good work.”

Gonzalez had noted that there were expenditures in excess of appropriations and budgeted and actual revenues and expenditures weren’t being compared on a monthly basis. The city delayed approving the report for a week to ensure it was corrected.

“We started this new method of when a check is made, we make sure that the receipts are there, that the invoices are there before we buy the items and then that the balance of the line item is there,” Mayor Fito Salinas said. “Before, there was nothing like that. If I needed to fix 20 flats on my vehicles, nobody knew if there was any money to fix those flats.”

Alaniz credited a lot of the work to the city’s finance director, Goya Jackson, who took over the job about two years ago.

The other items marked as corrected were:

  • Ensuring financial information is prepared timely and accurately for state agencies
  • Preparing purchase orders and invoices for transactions and storing them in a secure area
  • Ensuring cash deposits are handled properly and money is secured at all times
  • Ensuring credit card account statements are safeguarded and all back-up documentation attached to them
  • Ensuring the schedule of expenditures of federal awards is accurate and reflects all federal expenditures made during the year

Alaniz said the changes helped the city get back on track financially, and gain some ground on the previous deficit. When Salinas first took office, Alaniz said the city was about $500,000 in the red.

According to the audit, the city brought in $2,562,000 into the general fund and spent $2,216,000, meaning the city came out ahead by more than $46,000.

That money cut the deficit from about $431,000 to $384,000. Alaniz said this year’s budget includes setting aside $100,000 to cut the deficit back even more.

Salinas said he’s caught heat for approving fees on amusement machines on the city, but that funding is allowing the city to do more with its budget. A bid to finish a park on Military Road came out $111,000 over budget. The project includes a walking trail, lighting, retention ponds and a baseball, soccer and football field.

The $500,000 project is being funded by Urban County, but Urban County indicated it could not cover the $111,000, and if the city did not complete the project, it would have to return the $180,000 already spent on it.

“So guess where we’re going to get that money?” Salinas asked. “The amusement machines.”

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