Commitment to excellence should be expected with the people’s money

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Matt Mueller
Guthrie City Manager

This is the time of year that money is at the forefront of our minds at the City of Guthrie.  There are two major events that make this so.  The first is the FY2013 budget is being finalized, and the second is that our annual audit has recently been completed.  These two items are among the most important projects that the City of Guthrie undertakes each year.  One of the sacred responsibilities that falls to the local City Council and Public Servants is the prioritizing, spending, and tracking of the people’s money on public services and common goods. 

The public should expect a high level of integrity, accountability, and efficiency with regard to taxpayer money.  The annual audit is one of the ways that we ensure that a level of accountability exists and there are multiple checks and balances in this process.  While City staff is responsible for the day to day internal controls of the City’s finances, an outside firm comes in at the end of the year to prepare and review all of the financial statements before the audit begins.  After the financial statements are ready, a separate third party comes in to perform the audit.  While our audits generally give us high marks with very few identified minor deficiencies, this year’s audit came back with no comments because there was absolutely nothing wrong.  This is very unique in the annual auditing process, as one or two minor suggestions are usually brought up by the auditors.

The budget philosophy that is used by the City of Guthrie is also an important tool that we implore to make sure that we are responsive to the needs of the community and efficient so that we can maximize every cent of tax payer money.  Our budget process starts in late winter or early spring when the City Council holds a planning meeting to discuss budget goals and priorities.  Once that process is complete, budget guidelines are sent to the City Department heads that outline the goals, priorities, and boundaries that need to be taken into account and they individually craft their departmental budgets.  After the departmental budgets have been turned in, the Finance Department puts them all together to get an overall draft budget.   The next step is an important step in the City’s budget process.  The department heads spend several days reviewing each line item of the budget as a group.

This peer review process is important because it allows us to make sure that each department head has put the proper amount of thought and consideration into each line item.  It also allows us to have a safeguard against unnecessary costs or project.  This strategy has been used for the last three years, and each time it has happened, there have been efficiencies and opportunities for interdepartmental partnerships that have conserved resources and allowed the budget to remain lean.

Once this process has been completed, a rough draft of the budget is presented to the City Council and a workshop is held to discuss the details.  If there are any changes requested by City Council, they are incorporated into the final version.  Before the budget is adopted, a public hearing is held for the public.

Each year, the City is required by law to present a balanced budget, so there is no opportunity for our budget to run a deficit.  We have also implemented some other priorities this year that help to add another level of financial responsibility.  This year, for the first time, we will be looking at a one-year budget and a four year financial plan.  This has been done so that there can be a longer term outlook on projects and programs so that the necessary information can be available about how they will affect the City’s finances in future years.  Something else that is scheduled to be put in place this budget year is an ordinance requiring a stabilization fund.  This is essentially an emergency reserve fund that will exist in case a sever event occurs that requires unplanned funding or there is a major event that disrupts funding.  This will be the first time that Guthrie has ever had this in place and it is made possible by the conservative approach that has been taken with the budget over the past 3 years.

The City of Guthrie is a steward of local revenues that are collected from the tax payers and the public should expect an extremely high level of service and integrity in this area.  I believe that we operate in a fiscal environment that we can be proud of.  From the City Council, all the way to the front line employees, Guthrie has dedicated individuals who honor and respect the public’s money.

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