Tuesday, September 7, 2010

BILLION DOLLAR PIGGY: Audit shows over $1 Billion in City Assets

Part Six of a series on the Columbia city budget
COLUMBIA, 9/7/10  (Beat Byte) -- The City of Columbia's annual audit shows a mind-boggling $1.1 billion in "Total Assets," including over $187 million in cash.   After subtracting for liabilities, including debts, bond payments, and outstanding bills, city government's net worth is $758,492,781, a figure that includes over $120 million in "Unrestricted Funds."  
According to past Columbia (population 102,000) audits, city government's assets and net worth have almost doubled since 2002. 
Assets include cash, land, buildings, equipment, City Hall herself -- and the new Low-Car Lifestyle building arising across from the downtown post office.
Dated September 30, 2009, the City of Columbia audit sheds important light on City Hall's true financial position in a neatly-summarized single page.  Representing totals from all corners of city government -- not just those accounted for in its one-year budget -- asset figures from the audit vastly exceed the $482 million "Total Fund Balance" at the core of the city's annual budget.
In comparison, Jayhawk territory -- KU HQ Lawrence, Kansas (93,000 pop.) reported total assets of $780 million.  Lawrence's net worth was $475 million.  Neighboring Jefferson City, (41,000 pop.) reported roughly $243 million in total assets, and a $181 million net worth. 
The audit figures continue to challenge the notion that City Hall is hurting so much financially that it must raise water, sewer, electric, and rubbish rates -- where it holds an economic monopoly -- while cutting critical services during the nation's worst economy in decades.  Utility rates jumped across the board in 2008, and Columbia has a well-healed government by virtually every measure.  
Prepared by accountants McGladrey and Pullen, the City of Columbia audit won a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting, as did both Lawrence and Springfield, Mo. 
City Hall Total Assets
Columbia:     $ 1.1 Billion 
Lawrence:      $  780 million
Jeff City:         $  243 million
City Hall Net Worth (assets - liabilities)
Columbia:  $  758 million
Lawrence     $  475 million
Jeff City:       $  181 million

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