Rock-solid finances, flimsy reporting: Stamford Board greenlights year-old audit.

January 15, 2024
1 min read

TLDR: The Stamford Board of Finance has approved the city’s year-old audit, which reveals strong finances but weak reporting. The Annual Comprehensive Financial Report (ACFR) showed a $14 million budget surplus, a growing Grand List of taxable property, a high tax collection rate, and significant revenue from building permits. However, the ACFR was due in December 2022 and was delayed due to complications in the reporting of financial information. The delay put Stamford’s AAA credit rating and ability to sell bonds at risk and led to increased fees for the city’s outside auditor. The retirement of the longtime city controller is also imminent, prompting concerns about the competence of those working in the finance department. While the city is in a strong financial position, there are underlying problems that need to be addressed.

The delay in the audit was caused by weak financial controls and a failure to perform basic accounting in city departments. To rectify the situation, departments will now reconcile accounts more frequently, employees will be educated about procedures and deadlines, and supervisors will review financial reports for accuracy. The reporting of state and federal grants was also sloppy, leading to changes in how government awards are handled and the centralization of grant handling. Despite these efforts, concerns remain about the next audit and whether similar delays will occur.

The city has made headway in converting financial data from the old reporting system to a new one. However, questions remain about how to extract data and whether staff have the necessary skills to work in the new system. The long delay in the audit also raises concerns about the cost, as the city may owe the outside auditor nearly $345,000 or more. A final bill is still being calculated, and more information about the cost will be provided in the board’s February meeting.

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