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City finances get clean bill of health

An annual audit of the city of Rifle’s financial condition resulted in a “clean opinion” for 2012 from an independent auditor. City Council unanimously accepted the audit on Monday, July 1.

Auditor Tim Mayberry, with Holscher, Mayberry and Co. of Englewood, and city Finance Director Charles Kelty highlighted the audit during a workshop before the meeting. Mayberry noted the city’s general fund revenues were lower than expenditures by $832 during 2012, mostly due to the early pay-off of the debt on the police department and municipal court building. The move will save approximately $266,000 in future year’s annual budgets, according to the audit.

“You also spent down the street improvement fund and parks and recreation,” Mayberry added.



Councilman Keith Lambert noted the audit pointed out the value of annual water and sewer rate hikes to cover increased costs and help pay for improvements.

“Our concern with municipalities who don’t do that is it can get political, and you risk not have enough funds on hand to maintain the system,” Mayberry said.



Lambert said he was “joyous” to read and hear that stance, since the city had recently been criticized for “not planning ahead” and possibly avoiding last year’s sales tax hike and $25 million loan to build a new water treatment plant.

“It backs up what we’ve been doing for many, many years,” Lambert said. “I was also very pleased to see how many times you said our ‘conservative’ approach to budgeting and spending was correct.”

“You’ll never be able to raise enough revenue to do those types of major capital improvement projects with rates alone,” Mayberry said. “But it’s important to maintain those funds.”

The audit also noted 2012 was the second year in a row the city was out of compliance with its debt covenant to the Colorado Water and Power Development Authority. Mayberry said the city had acted correctly to address that by increasing sewer rates by 5 percent this year.

Kelty noted the city had reduced the amount it was short from $539,000 in 2011 to $38,233 last year.

Lambert said unexpected expenses associated with the construction of the plant in West Rifle in 2009 led to the shortfall.

In other business, City Council:

• approved an agreement with Xcel Energy for electrical and gas service at the site of the new wastewater treatment plant at a cost of just over $27,000;

• passed an ordinance that sets up a process to designate areas of the city where large semitrucks cannot idle their engines overnight;

• exempted the city’s July 3 fireworks display from the city’s prohibition on the use of fireworks between Memorial and Labor Days;

• heard City Manager Matt Sturgeon tell them of likely odd and even day watering restrictions for residents and businesses within the next few weeks. Due to increased demand for water to keep lawns and gardens from drying out, Sturgeon said the city water plant is nearing its treatment capacity, so restrictions are likely.


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