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Audit numbers to be unveiled Monday

December 3, 2011

WOONSOCKET — It appears city officials will have to wait until Monday's meeting of the City Council to get the bottom line of Fiscal Year 2011.
The city's auditing firm, Braver, PC, is still working with School Department Business Manager Stacey Busby on final accounting reports for the budget ending June 30, 2011, and hopes to have completed the documation work for an initial report on Monday, City Finance Director Thomas M. Bruce III said Thursday.
The city's close-out numbers on municipal accounts in the $116 million spending plan are already in, leaving review of the school department's larger share of the budget as the last step in completing the annual audit. The city must file its audit report with the state by Dec. 31.
"There is no indication yet as to a surplus or deficit result or if the school department is on track for delivering everything on time," Bruce said. Busby is working alone on preparing the reports requested by Braver due to staff vacancies, Bruce noted, and may need the weekend to submit the remaining data requests.
All of the city's accounts must be reconciled with actual expenditures to determine the bottom line of last year's budget. Although earlier projections showed both the municipal and school sides of the budget to be better than balanced, the independent audit report is needed to confirm that status going into the coming fiscal year.
On Friday, outgoing School Committee Chairman Marc Dubois said he stopped in at the school department and found Busby, Braver Principal Robert J. Civetti and some of Civetti’s colleagues hard at work on the numbers.
“Right now, people are meeting with Stacey Busby and going over the figures they need,” said Dubois, who noted that he didn’t interrupt the group. “Hopefully, everything will balance out and hopefully they will get everything they need and it will be a good report on Monday.”
Dubois, who was elected to the City Council last month, will be finishing up his duties on the School Committee Monday night. He will be inaugurated Tuesday night with fellow newly-elected officials.
For Bruce, the outcome of the budget close-out could have a significant bearing on whether the city's bond rating improves or takes another hit. The city's bond rating agencies lowered the city's ratings on its $119 million in outstanding general obligation bonds earlier in the year and Mayor Leo T. Fontaine has counted on a $12 million deficit reduction bond secured last year and a list of austerity measures and negotiated cost savings to help turn those ratings around.
Bond ratings impact the city's financing interest rates and as a result determine the cost of local bonding for projects such as school construction, road improvements and major departmental capital purchases.
Civetti sent Bruce a letter on Wednesday indicating his company was still collecting the required data from the school department and could not issue a forecast prior to all the numbers being reviewed.
"I know that you, Mayor Fontaine, and members of the City Council were hoping to receive an estimate of the Fiscal 2011 operating result of the School Unrestricted General Fund. However, I trust that you can understand my position of not feeling comfortable disclosing an estimate before all of our field work analysis is completed and certain open issues resolved. We currently have a significant account balance that is not yet analyzed," he said.
Bruce said a positive outcome in the audit of the past fiscal year's budget would be supportive of the city's efforts to show the rating firms it is deserving of a rating upgrade.
A negative audit report, an assessment of an outstanding deficit, would only present new problems for the city in putting its past shortfalls behind. North Providence experienced such an outcome when its bond rating firms lowered the town's rating based on a school department deficit, Bruce noted.
For now, the city must get all of the required information into Braver so that the firm can issue its final audit report, Bruce said. Civetti is expected to attend the Council meeting on Monday night and will be able to give a projection on completion of the audit at that time, Bruce said. "Hopefully it will be good news, that we will be finishing on time and both the city and the school department will have surpluses," he said.

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