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Audit shows City of Morris in good financial shape

By Tom Larson

Sun Tribune

The City of Morris received a clean bill of financial health for 2009.

Derek Flanagan, of Eide Bailly, told the City Council that a review of the city's books for 2009 showed a"clear audit opinion" - or an "unqualified opinion" -- which is the best mark it could receive.

In all funds, Flanagan said the audit showed net assets rose 7.4 percent. Liabilities increased 12 percent, but that was due to the city taking on new debt for infrastructure repairs.

Flanagan said the equity of the city rose 5 percent - "If you sold your city tomorrow, this is what it would be worth.

Other factors, such as liquidity ratio, net asset ratio, net assets over time and long-term debt to population, all ranked as positive, he said.

General Fund revenue increased by 8.5 percent in 2009 over 2008, and expenditures in 2009 dropped 6.2 percent from 2008. The city has cut expenditures in the last two years - from $3.1 million in 2008 to $2.96 million in 2009 -- which is a positive sign as the county's and state's financial problems continue, Flanagan said.

The city also transferred about 15 percent of its General Fund reserves to the Capital Outlay Fund. At the time, the city was concerned about rumblings from the Capitol that reserves might be tapped as the state sought ways to balance its budget.

The city now has 35 percent of its General Fund as a reserve, City Manager Blaine Hill said.

While city construction projects add to its debt load, Hill said the projects offer "the best bang for our buck in the current environment," with interest rates low and bids coming in very low. Also, primary funding for the projects comes from assessments on property owners, Hill said.

The city's liquor store operation also had a solid year, with sales up 4.4 percent over 2008 while expenditures were up 3.2 percent.

"Very consistent," Flanagan said.

"Overall," Hill said, "we had a good year and we appear to be in a good financial postion."

In other city business:

•The City Council passed a joint powers agreement with the State of Minnesota allowing the Morris Police Department to participate in the state's Child Sexual Predator Program. The program provides funding to assist local governments in combating problems related to child sexual predation.

The program provides $5,000 to help offset the costs of dealing with child sexual predators, specifically the police force's participation in the Minnesota Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Time and expenses relating to the work of the task force and investigations of child sexual predator crimes are reimbursed by the state through the CSPP.

•The city will apply for a grant that could pay for 50 percent of a new credit card activation system used for fueling at the Morris Airport.

Because of new requirements by credit card companies, the airport's current card reader will not be operational after July 1. A new system is estimated to cost almost $16,000.

The city has contacted the Minnesota Department of Transportation's Aviation Division, which has expressed interest in providing a grant for 50 percent of the cost. The city would have the additional 50 percent. The city also will contact members of a local flying club to discuss a sharing arrangement, Hill said.