Vergennes gets favorable audit, but sees changes in future procedures

VERGENNES — Vergennes aldermen last week discussed how future city audits should be conducted, but not because the one on the table in front of them was unfavorable.
“The audit is a good audit,” said Alderman Renny Perry at the De. 20 Vergennes City Council meeting. “We’re in good financial condition, and everything is being handled appropriately.”
Rather, the issue that the council focused on was whether alderman should follow a recommendation auditors have long routinely made — that the city follow Government Accounting Standards Boards (GASB) procedures to track its assets as well as its finances.
For his part, City Manager Mel Hawley has long maintained doing so would be a long and expensive and possibly unnecessary process.
“The question is what would it take for us to have GASB-compliant statements,” Hawley said.
He said it could mean taking an inventory and creating a depreciation schedule for all city assets and buildings dating back to 1788. Essentially, he said, it resembles business accounting, except that the city earns no tax benefits from depreciation.
“It doesn’t come easy,” Hawley said. “You ask yourself, is this what you want your staff doing?”
Perry agreed with Hawley there are drawbacks and that the process would not improve the city’s borrowing position.
On the other hand, the finished product, Perry said, is written in English, not in dense accounting language.
“An audit done that way is much more understandable to the public,” said Perry, who acknowledged that GASB accounting is usually done by “cities with finance staff.”
The council will check with the Vermont League of Cities and Towns to see how — and if — communities about the size of Vergennes have handled GASB, and then revisit the question at a later date. 

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