Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Port Richey audit draws applause for solid finances

PORT RICHEY — Audits don't usually bring applause.

But City Council members found themselves cheering Tuesday evening after the city's accountant and an external auditor gave a report on Port Richey's dramatic financial turnaround. They said the city is in the black and poised to turn around a long-struggling water and sewer fund that caused state officials a few years ago to warn of a financial emergency.

In the four years he has been auditing the city, auditor Judson Baggett told council members the city has "been to hell and back" in terms of their finances.

"You are looking a tremendous amount better than you ever have," he said. "You don't see that in too many places."

He noted that last year the city's net assets increased 3.1 percent to $588,764. The city collected $3 million in general revenue while spending about $2.4 million, according to a report by the firm Baggett, Reutimann & Associates.

The trend continued for the first six months of this fiscal year: The city pulled in $2.5 million, which is $229,000 more than projected. It spent $2.2 million, $61,000 less than projected. In addition, the city's water and sewer fund has a positive balance of $382,000, city accountant Pete Schatzel said.

Council members praised tough, and at times unpopular, decisions to raise utility rates and property taxes as a factor. City finance director Pam Zeigler also credited a stricter citywide purchasing policy. Acting Mayor Bill Colombo said "it's not often" a city council is excited over a financial report.

"We're moving in the right direction and I'm proud of everybody," he said.

The biggest drag on the city's finances in recent years has been in its water and sewer department, which hemorrhaged money due to aging infrastructure and only two water and wastewater rate increases in 21 years.

State officials had warned for years that the city faced a financial emergency, in large part because of problems with the utility funds. As recently as this year, the city made the governor's auditor general's warning list.

That process, however, is somewhat muddled, as the state is a year behind in reviewing cities' financial statements. So its emergency warning this year was based on 2009-10 fiscal year numbers that showed an asset deficit of $997,000.

The Baggett audit for 2010-11 shows the city will likely get another warning from the state on its next review due to a continued water and sewer deficit, according to Zeigler.

But since the 2009-10 fiscal year, the city has slashed its water and sewer deficit of $561,000 by $504,000, according to Zeigler's response to the state's inquiry.

Zeigler told the Times that a state warning based on the 2010-11 fiscal year should be the city's last, as this year the city will likely end up with a surplus in the water and sewer fund.

Port Richey audit draws applause for solid finances 06/27/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 8:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Lightning's Steven Stamkos looks close to top form in first game since November

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Lightning captain Steven Stamkos was curious how he would feel — and perform — in Friday's exhibition against Nashville, his first game since mid-November knee surgery.

    The Lightning’s Alex Killorn, left, makes his preseason debut and has an assist in a 3-1 win against the Predators at Amalie Arena.
  2. Steven Souza Jr. vindicating big trade for Rays

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — There was a time when the three-team, 11-player transaction the Rays orchestrated to get Steven Souza Jr. from the Nationals looked liked a bad deal.

    The Rays’ Steven Souza Jr. has 30 home runs while improving his defense and baserunning.
  3. Fennelly: Lightning's Manon Rheaume made history 25 years ago Saturday

    Lightning Strikes

    The name is part of Lightning history, hockey history, sports history.

    Lightning goalie Manon Rheaume became the first woman to play in an NHL game 25 years ago today.
  4. Investigators reviewing HHS chief's private charter flights


    WASHINGTON — Federal investigators are examining Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price's recent use of costly charter flights on the taxpayers' dime for official business.

  5. FSU gives president John Thrasher a pay bump as its academic standing rises


    TALLAHASSEE — With Florida State University moving closer to becoming a top-25 public university, the school's trustees on Friday bumped up President John Thrasher's salary by 7 percent and awarded him a $200,000 bonus.

    Florida State University President John Thrasher, center, is surrounded by lawmakers in 2016 as he visits the Florida Senate. Thrasher on Friday received a pay increase to go with the university's increased academic standing, including in the latest U.S. News & World Report ranking of public universities. FSU ranks 33rd this year, and is aiming for a top-25 spot. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]