MADEIRA BEACH — In 2011, a new commission majority came to office intent on fixing what it viewed as major issues within the city's financial reporting.
Instead, the following year was one of political and financial turmoil resulting from the resignations of most of the administration's top leaders, including its award-winning finance director, Monica Mitchell.
Today, only one of that majority — Mayor Travis Palladeno — is still on the commission.
Last week, he had the satisfaction of hearing praise from the city's auditors, who reported an "unqualified" endorsement of the city's financial procedures.
Palladeno described the auditor's opinion as "one heck of a compliment" for the city's current administration.
The auditing firm, Mayer Hoffman McCann P.C., also presented the city with an official Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association of the U.S. and Canada.
"This is quite an accomplishment," said auditor Laura Krueger Brock, pointing to last year's report that found "significant internal weaknesses" in the city's budgetary internal controls and processes.
In 2011, the city went almost 10 months without a city manager and more than a year without a finance director, turning to one interim appointment and consultant after another trying to keep the city's operations and books current.
Then, in early 2012, Vincent Tenaglia was hired as finance director and began reconstructing the city's books.
"Vince came to a department that was in pretty tough shape and in a remarkable period of time turned it around into a pretty good department," City Manager Shane Crawford said.
This year's audit included examining the city's canceled checks and invoices, confirming cash and revenue, analyzing current and past budgets, reviewing liabilities, receivables and inventories, and performing potential fraud inquiries.
Here are some highlights from the auditor's report:
• $30.4 million in net assets, an increase of $439,694 over the previous year, and no long-term debt.
• A 2.09 percent increase in government spending during fiscal year 2012, including reconstituting its building department after contracting out those services for a number of years, expanding law enforcement services to include a community policing officer, and hosting several new community events. Special projects included replacing seawalls, improving basketball courts, and securing engineering for street resurfacing and a new municipal complex.
• A year-end (Sept. 30, 2012) fund balance of $14.1 million, a slight increase over the previous year.
• Unrestricted reserves totaling $7.2 million, of which the city has set aside $1.7 million as an emergency operations fund.
• Capital project reserves including $3.3 million from the 2006 sale of the city's sewer system to Pinellas County, and $2.2 million generated by the Penny for Pinellas sales tax.
The commission plans to begin a new City Hall complex in the fall but has yet to decide how much of the cost will be covered by reserves or by a 30-year bond issue.