Zephyrhills’ finances solid, audit shows

An independent audit shows that Zephyrhills is in healthy financial shape.

The Zephyrhills City Council on Sept. 12 received and approved the audit of the city’s 2014-2015 financial statements, performed by Baggett, Reuitmann & Associates, and John E. Henson CPA.

The city’s assets exceeded its total liabilities by about $79.3 million, and the city’s total net position increased by 3.44 percent to about $2.6 million from 2014 to 2015, according to the financial report.

The 74-page audit also shows Zephyrhills’ ad valorem revenue increased for the first time in six years.

The city’s ad valorem revenue was about $3.6 million in 2015, an increase of more than $110,000 from 2014. But, the report notes that ad valorem taxes remain about 2.8 percent less than collected in fiscal year 2010 (about $3.7 million), the second year of the Great Recession.

The audit summarizes that “city administration took a conservative approach to balancing the 2016 fiscal year budget.”

During the council meeting, John Henson, a Zephyrhills-based accountant, said the city is in a “very good financial position.”

“I really thought there were going to be a lot of municipalities with a minus balance, but the City of Zephyrhills has taken very good care of itself,” Henson said.

Jeff Baggett, of Baggett, Reuitmann & Associates, added the city remained very financially stable from 2008 through 2015.

“It’s weathered the recession,” Baggett said about the city’s finances. “During the recession, a lot of governments had financial troubles. …(Zephyrhills) never even came close to that.”

Council president Kenneth Compton said the city’s encouraging financial footing “was a function of good leadership from the council, the mayor and the city manager.”

“We all stuck together,” he said.

City Manager Steve Spina concurred, saying the city’s financial situation was a “real team effort” among the city’s various department heads.

“They’ve been great partners in recognizing the differences between needs and wants,” Spina said.

“We met with them individually, and they all agreed to cut back where needed,” Spina added.

The audit does include a critique involving the city’s record-keeping of federal grants it has received.

The audit says “personnel overseeing the grants were unable to provide an accurate schedule of grants that…reconciled to the city’s underlying financial records.”

In the report, both accounting firms recommend the city to appoint a specific individual to oversee grants, and have the designated individual undergo specific training for Federal and State Single Audit Acts requirement.

As for other bookkeeping concerns, Henson said there was “nothing major.”

In other business, the council unanimously approved the Zephyrhills Community Redevelopment Agency’s $315,000 budget for fiscal year 2016-2017.

The redevelopment agency, known as the CRA, adopted budget for the 2015-2016 fiscal was about $465,000, but Gail Hamilton, CRA director, said about $100,000 will roll over to the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

Hamilton told the council she’s continually working on creating incentives to bring in new businesses to Zephyrhills through renovations of vacant building spaces, and by offering façade and signage grants programs.

The objective, she said, is to increase property values within the CRA district, a 520-acre defined area that essentially encompasses the center spine of the city, generally between Hercules Park to C Avenue, and from Zephyr Park to 17th Street.

“It looks like we’ve had a couple of pockets where property values rose this year,” she said, addressing the council.

“Hopefully, what the CRA is doing in cleaning up the neighborhoods and working with the businesses, and some of the things that are happening in the marketplace, the…valuations will rise,” Hamilton said.

Published September 21, 2016

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