The Soldotna City Council receives a presentation from auditors on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. (Screenshot)

The Soldotna City Council receives a presentation from auditors on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. (Screenshot)

Soldotna receives clean FY 2020 audit

Council members praised the city administration.

The City of Soldotna received a clean audit for fiscal year 2020, which ended at the end of June, according to a presentation given to the Soldotna City Council during its Wednesday meeting.

The results of the audit, which was performed by BDO USA, LLP, were presented to the council by BDO Assurance Office Managing Partner Joy Merriner and Assurance Manager Travis Werba. Their report specifically highlighted the cooperation of city administration.

“We’re issuing an unmodified opinion of the financial statements, which is the highest level of assurance we can give of the financial statement,” Werba said.

Because the audit only covers city finances through June of last year, it does not fully reflect the scope of the city’s CARES Act spending, a lot of which was done after June 30 of last year. The City of Soldotna received nearly $10 million in CARES Act funding in 2020, including $7.38 million from the State of Alaska and $2.56 million from the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

Merriner said that Soldotna City Manager Stephanie Queen and Soldotna Finance Director Melanie Imholte frequently consulted with BDO throughout the CARES Act spending process with questions pertaining to what needed to be documented and how, as well as whether or not the city was eligible for certain programs.

“Your team was very conservative in your approach, very careful and well-thought-out and that’s what keeps you out of trouble,” Merriner said.

For that reason, Merriner said, they did not have any findings to report with regards to CARES, where she specifically looked for how their clients documented what they were doing considering a general lack of guidance on how those funds would need to be reported.

“You’re not, you know, forging stuff six months later to try and be in line with things — it was documented in the first place,” Merriner said. “Not having a finding on CARES is kind of amazing given that the audit rules for CARES came out on Dec. 23, 2020.”

Merriner also highlighted that Imholte drafted the city’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), which Queen also reviewed, and which saved the city money because municipalities usually contract the task out.

“There’s only a handful of finance directors who can draft a CAFR every year,” Merriner said.

The CAFR, Merriner said, is a financial statement that provides info on the health of the city and that people will be able to look back on as a historical document in the future. Drafting CAFRs this year, Merriner said, was a “herculean effort” due to the sheer amount of financial information municipalities took in as a result of the COVID pandemic and associated relief funds.

Soldotna City Council Member Dave Carey was one of many on the council who praised the efforts of city administration.

“There are some communities — no fault of theirs, I’d say — but they’d love to get even one report without any findings of corrections and we do it every year and we make it look like that’s the norm. It obviously isn’t,” Carey said. “So again, kudos to all the financial people in the city and to the mayor and also to our manager for the work they’re doing and their leadership.”

Council Member Jordan Chilson agreed.

“We have an awesome team at the city. You guys do amazing work and we’re lucky to have you,” Chilson said. “Every year we can count reliably on the financial process going smoothly because of the work that goes on there.”

The full audit can be found on the city’s website at soldotna.org.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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