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Auditor: Sandy's books in excellent shape

The city of Sandy is likely the envy of lenders, other governments and auditors. For the past 19 years, the city's financial books have been in such good shape that the city has received an award each year for excellent financial reporting.

This could easily be the 20th consecutive year that Sandy receives the award from the (national) Government Finance Officers Association.

Not only are the city's books in good order, but city management of financial affairs is exemplary.

The city has increased its net assets about $1.7 million over the past fiscal year while also reducing its long-term debt of $8.7 million by more than $850,000.

Director of Finance Seth Atkinson told the Sandy City Council recently the city has about $37 million in net assets (after subtracting debt), including $28 million in capital assets and $9 million in cash and long-term investments.

Those investments are being handled through Seattle Northwest, Atkinson said. That financial firm has secured about $1 million in gains for the city's investments over the past four or five years.

Needless to say, the city is in good financial shape, and its financial records have received a 'clean' evaluation by the city's independent auditor.

Tonya Moffitt of Merina and Company of West Linn recently presented the audit report to the council, covering the fiscal year ending June 30.

The city has had a fairly unique policy for about 20 years, thanks to City Manager Scott Lazenby, of conservative spending, Atkinson said. Department heads are encouraged to buy wisely and avoid spending all of their savings each year because they are allowed to spend it in a future year - at a time when it is critical to have that resource available.

'No one feels pressured to spend in the current fiscal year,' Atkinson said. 'That's really important. I'm just shocked that we don't have more governments doing things like this. They've set up a system of 'use it or lose it' and nobody wants to change it.'

Some people might object to large fund balances (cash waiting to be spent), but Atkinson says it saves money in the long run because fund balances make it easier to get a high credit rating and the money is there to pay cash when there's a large expense. That policy avoids interest payments on debt that the city doesn't have to incur.

All of the funds are kept in separate accounts, with restrictions. For example, Atkinson said, the city can't use water fees to pay for the library project.

For more information, call Atkinson at 503-668-5767.