Finances improving, but town “not out of the woods yet”

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The town received its 2016 consolidated financial statements and the town’s auditor is giving a “clean audit” opinion.

That said, the town is quick to point out there is still some more work to do.

Cynthia Swift from the firm KPMG appeared before town council Monday night and said the clean report is due in large part to the town’s administration following the Deloitte report’s recommendations. The Deloitte report was issued in 2014 during the town’s financial struggles and helped the town regain some of its financial footing.

“We did not find any serious deficiencies,” Swift said, regarding her firm’s review of the financial statements. “Management is doing a good job following the Deloitte report, reducing debt and increasing revenue.”

Swift said she was satisfied with the town’s handling of the employee future benefit liability, noting that can increase or decrease annually.

Councillor Rick Fryer commented that the finances were in “disarray” when the current council was sworn into office.

“I feel the report is a report card of our treasury department,” said Fryer, adding his belief that town financial staff have helped restore public trust in the finances of the municipality.

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Fryer added that he regularly hears positive feelings about Amherstburg when he meets with people from outside the town.

“All I hear are really good things about Amherstburg,” he said. “(People say) Amherstburg is the place that has got its finances on a fabulous track.”

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said it wasn’t a big surprise that the town is starting to straighten itself out financially. He said if people look at the direction council and administration have taken to address its issues, “it’s not so surprising.

“If nothing else, it’s great news.”

Administration is keeping a “watchful eye” on the finances and the town is also working closely with developers and construction companies with contracts coming in under-budget rather than over-budget, DiCarlo said, adding this is leading to surpluses.

However, the mayor cautioned they can’t get too excited about the good news.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” said DiCarlo.

The KPMG audit shows management is being prudent but there are still areas the town has to work on.

“We still have to keep building reserves,” said DiCarlo, using that as an example. “We are pointed in the right direction but we have to stay pointed in the right direction.”

Director of corporate services/treasurer Justin Rousseau said the town has reduced its long-term debt from $50 million to $39.5 million and is doing a better job of collecting its receivables.

“We are building reserves and cash flow is in a good position,” he said. “We’ve been able to do it with good financial reporting to council.”
Rousseau added “we’ve got a ways to go” but said the turnaround has been gratifying for administration. He believes the town is the first municipality in the region to have its 2016 consolidated financial statements passed by council, a contrast to when the town was behind several years in presenting them to the elected body.

The town is able to make investment decisions, he added, now they have some reserves built up and that was not possible just a few years ago.

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