SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — For the first time in decades, the City of Syracuse received an independent audit report free of “material weaknesses” in internal financial controls.
Mayor Ben Walsh says this is another step towards fiscal sustainability.
The City’s independent auditor, the Bonadio Group, issued its annual audit report for 2019-20 to the Walsh administration earlier this month.
“It’s the first significant step in making sure that we can ensure to our stakeholders again, whether it be bondholders or taxpayers, that their money is being managed properly. So, it’s a significant step,” Walsh tells NewsChannel 9.
Auditors examined financial practices for a wide range of functions, including systems and procedures for everything from receiving and making payments, to timekeeping for overtime, to issuing bonds for large capital projects.
According to the report, “during our audit, we did not identify any deficiencies in internal control that we consider to be material weaknesses.”
Walsh explains when the city looks to borrow money, a lender, or anyone looking to invest in the city, will first look at both the internal and outside audits to see if Syracuse is good at managing its money.
“And the first thing that they’re going to see an audit is material weaknesses that’s gonna show, that again, we don’t have a clear line of sight on when money is flowing in and out of the city, and so that’s going to be a red flag for whether again, its bondholders, other lenders,” he says.
The new audit shows a turnaround that Walsh says is quite significant.
“It’s not an opportunity to say, OK, we’re done. It’s just an opportunity to say, hey, we’re making progress, being verified by an independent body, and we need to continue down that path, so that’s what we’re going to do,” he adds.
Prior to the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City was actually projecting a $1.5 million budget surplus. Walsh says with federal stimulus help, the city can get right back on track.
In 2019, Standard & Poors Global Ratings (S&P) upgraded its outlook for the City to Stable from what had been Negative. S&P and Moody’s both maintained the City’s ratings in 2020, despite the challenges presented to municipalities by the pandemic.