October 18, 2006

Financial Report Spotlights Transparency

It's all about transparency.

So said Southampton Town Supervisor Skip Heaney as he and the town board gathered to review the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report of the Town of Southampton during a work session last Friday.

The report covers the fiscal year ending December 31, 2005, and was prepared by the office of the town comptroller, Charlene Kagel, and audited by the accounting firm of Albrecht, Viggiano, Zureck, & Company, PC.

The report, said Heaney, was prepared to meet the requirements of the Government Finance Officers Association Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting program.

The 120-page document is organized into three parts, including an introductory section, a financial section and a statistical section. New additions to the report include a transmittal section, a statistics section and components regarding the town's housing authority. This information, said Heaney, was included in the "interest of full disclosure." A narrative is also included to explain the information in layman's terms.

The town's auditing firm commended the town for taking the steps to prepare such a thorough document. Only a few municipalities such as Huntington, Hempstead and Oyster Bay had set out on such an ambitious endeavor, firm representatives said. Southampton "is in the top 10% of governments in Long Island as far as fiscal reporting," they said.

Although most governments do not win the GFOA award their first year, the honor is considered "The Good Housekeeping seal of approval for governments," said representatives from the accounting firm.

The report also highlights Southampton's stellar accomplishments, such as its Moody's ranking: Due to many years of sound fiscal management, the report states, revenues have exceeded expenditures, creating almost a half billion dollars in assets and $53.5 million of fund balances, of which 15% is unrestricted and can be used for emergencies.

Due to the favorable financial trend, Moody's Investors Service has increased the town's bond rating three times in the past 10 years, from A1 to Aa1, allowing the town to borrow at low interest rates for present and future projects.

The document, said Heaney, "is an incredible level of transparent reporting. I think we've served our public well."

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