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Published: Saturday, 4/28/2007

Toledo city council awaits '06 report on spending

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo Finance Director John Sherburne has assured City Council that the 2006 budget was balanced, with even a modest surplus, but has still not turned in a final budget summary.

Mr. Sherburne told council's finance committee Thursday that the annual budget "close-out" report would be ready by the end of next week. Typically, those reports are complete in March.

Council finance committee Chairman George Sarantou said yesterday the close-out is late, but not a problem.

"Hopefully, next week they'll have a report ready to go," he said.

He said Commissioner of Accounts Tom Radwanski is working to finish balancing the books, without a chief accountant to assist him.

The $60,985 chief accountant position has been vacant about a year.

"It's not Radwanski's fault. We just don't have enough people," Mr. Sarantou said.

He said the finance department had 72 positions in 1994 and today has 42.

In a verbal report to council, Mr. Sherburne said the city would officially close the books for 2006 with a $660,000 surplus.

Of that, he said, about $323,000 would be deposited into the rainy-day fund. After a payment to the city parks fund, the carryover to the 2007 general operating fund budget will be about $341,000.

"That's obviously a good sign for the city," Mr. Sherburne said, adding that it sends a message to bond rating agencies that the city is sound enough financially to put some money away.

The annual close-out tells council exactly how much money the city took in and spent in the previous year, and whether it is heading in a positive or negative direction.

The close-out would tell how close the city came to its projected general-fund spending and revenue target of $233.4 million for 2006.

Mr. Sherburne said the close-out is effectively done, but he said he still wants to review the final numbers and promised council members a finished document by next Friday.

Councilman Betty Shultz has blamed the finance department's antiquated computer system and financial accounting software for delays in closing out 2006. She wants the city to allocate $12 million to upgrade its financial accounting software.

"My complaint is there is not timely information," Ms. Shultz said. She claims the finance software, known as the Ross system and acquired in 1994, is out of date and understood by very few people in the finance department.

Mr. Sarantou said despite the age of the Ross system, the city's accounting has never been cited by its outside auditors as being incorrect.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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