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Berkley

June 12, 2013

Berkley receives recognition, AA rating for financial reporting

By Joshua Gordon
C & G Staff Writer

BERKLEY — The city of Berkley received recognition last month for its financial reporting from both the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada, and Fitch Ratings.

The GFOA awarded Berkley a certificate of achievement for excellence in financial reporting for its 2012 comprehensive annual financial report. The certificate of achievement is the highest recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting.

Fitch Ratings affirmed their AA bond rating for Berkley based on several factors, including sound financial management by city leaders. The voter-approved 3-mill Headlee override was a key factor in the rating, City Manager Jane Bais-DiSessa said.

“In my personal opinion, getting both of these recognitions means we are doing a great job and I am very, very proud to achieve these, as it is not easy,” Bais-DiSessa said. “These are not easy things to do and I hope to achieve these each and every year from here on out.”

The GFOA serves approximately 17,500 government and finance professionals and looks for a “spirit of full disclosure” when conducting reports. Every year, cities are required to conduct an annual audit, Bais-DiSessa said, but in order to earn the certificate of achievement, Berkley city officials had to go above and beyond with the comprehensive annual financial report.

With a small staff, Bais-DiSessa said completing the report was not easy, but something she and others felt needed to be done.

“Especially when you are a small community, this report is not easy to do because the data required is tremendous, and with very few staff members who work on it, it took a lot of work,” she said. “In essence, us getting this certification is saying we are going beyond the basic reporting of the city’s financial reporting and I think it shows that we are accountable for all our expenses and shows that what we are doing is in accordance with our state laws.”

The Fitch Ratings assessment involved taking a look at the annual audit report, as well as the surrounding conditions of the state and region. Bais-DiSessa said she and the city’s finance director sat down with Fitch officials to discuss the city’s finances and answer any questions they may have had.

“Considering our tough economic times, I am very pleased we were able to maintain our AA bond rating,” Bais-DiSessa said. “Every year, we have to think about what we have and what will work, and there are some tough decisions, difficult decisions, that need to be made in order to stay on top of things.

“Our state is not as well as it should be, and that was a factor, but we are not on an island and we feel if we do well, others around us will do well, also,”

Mayor Phil O’Dwyer took notice of the hard work of the city’s officials, specifically Bais-DiSessa, in completing these financial reports and keeping the city on track.

“We’re fortunate to have sound leadership here in the city of Berkley,” he said. “Our city manager is hands-on in every aspect of city operations and she runs a tight ship. I am grateful for the dedication and efforts of every department head and employee who contributed in these achievements.”

Bais-DiSessa said when she came to Michigan more than 20 years ago, she came from a city that always did the comprehensive annual financial report. Not only does it make sure the city officials are on top of the city’s finances, it also shows city residents that the officials want to make sure everything is in place to run the city properly.

“I have strived to do these extra reports since I got here because I think it tells our residents that we have gone one more step beyond the traditional requirements,” Bais-DiSessa said. “We are proving to financial officials to be more transparent, and showing and providing whatever data they need to help determine that we are managing the city in a fiscally sound manner. Now, we are going to challenge ourselves to do this each and every year.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Joshua Gordon at jgordon@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1077.