Auditors give city finances checkup, clean bill of health
The firm hired to audit the city of Aspen’s finances has issued its preliminary findings, and it appears the city has emerged from its annual checkup in good shape.
In a letter outlining the audit’s methods and initial findings, accountants from McMahan and Associates, an Avon-based accounting firm, report they “found no material misrepresentations” in the city’s financial records.
The City Council will learn the details of the audit at its July 12 meeting, said Finance Director Tabatha Miller.
Each and every year, the city hands over its financial statements from the year before to an accounting firm that is qualified to perform municipal audits. McMahan and Associates specializes in audits of small cities like Aspen.
“They want to know if what we report in our financial statements fairly represents what’s going on in the city,” Miller said.
To figure that out, auditors check bank statements, contact private firms with which the city does business – like the company that manages the city’s pension funds, and sometimes sends letters to taxpayers seeking confirmation that the numbers recorded by the city are correct.
“I know some minor points have been raised in past years,” Miller said, “but I don’t believe the city has ever gotten into trouble with its financial records. If we did, I’d be out of a job.”
Miller said the city finances are in better shape than they’ve ever been. In 1998, the city collected $43,978,054 in taxes, rents and fees, and spent $40,278,793.
Just over $13 million of the total came from “enterprise funds” like the municipal golf course, the water department and Marolt Ranch housing rentals. Enterprise funds are operated like a business – operating costs are covered by each organization’s annual revenues.
“The enterprise funds make money, but everything we collect has to stay with that fund,” Miller said. Leftover money – $2,173,205 in 1998 – is used for capital investments, such as new appliances or new water lines and golf carts.
The remaining $31 million of the city’s budget goes into a variety of other funds, including housing/daycare, the Wheeler Opera House, parks and open space and the general fund. Surpluses in non-enterprise funds are invested at the end of the year and saved until the council decides how to use the extra money.
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