Macomb’s finances ‘among the best’ in state, auditors say

By: Jeremy Selweski | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published December 18, 2013

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — The township’s strategy of budgeting as conservatively as possible has paid off in the long run, as the results of a recent audit show.

At its Dec. 11 meeting, the Macomb Township Board of Trustees received a presentation outlining the results of its 2012-13 independent audit conducted by the governmental accounting and auditing firm Plante Moran. Lisa Manetta, a senior audit manager for the firm, reported that the township had once again put together a very strong budget during the previous fiscal year, which ended on June 30.

As Manetta told the board, last year one of her colleagues “stood here and said that Macomb Township was right up there among the best communities in the area, and maybe the entire state, as far as financial condition goes. And we’re very happy to report that that (condition) has only gotten better.”

In 2012-13, township officials were able to add roughly $1.4 million to their already sizeable general fund balance, Manetta noted. This gave the township a rainy day fund that currently stands at more than $30 million.

“That is certainly something that lends even more to the strong financial condition of the township and certainly something that you should be commended for,” Manetta said. “The financial report that you have received … is the result of about 700 hours of audit testing that we do over the course of several weeks. And the end result is, once again, an unmodified opinion … which is the highest level of assurance that an independent auditing firm can provide.”

Township Clerk Michael Koehs later pointed out that, in his 12 years working for Macomb, the township has received an unmodified — previously referred to as “unqualified” — opinion every single year. He attributed this continued success to strong budget oversight by Finance Director Stacy VanReyendam, accurate record keeping by the entire Finance Department, and responsible management by all department heads in the township.

“All these different things working together have put us in very good financial shape,” Koehs explained.

At the meeting, Trustee Roger Krzeminski thanked VanReyendam, Treasurer Karen Goodhue and all other township department heads for their hard work in helping Plante Moran through the auditing process.

Trustee Dino Bucci asked Manetta if any other communities in metro Detroit had posted a $1.4 million surplus in 2012-13, but she said that it was hard to recall any specific numbers. She did mention, however, that while quite a few municipalities saw an increase in their fund balance during the previous fiscal year, many others saw a decrease.

In June, the Board of Trustees approved the township’s preliminary 2013-14 budget, which included a $16.1 million general fund budget and an overall operating budget of $60.3 million. While some might argue that a $30 million fund balance is excessive, given these numbers, Koehs believes that having such a healthy sum in the bank falls right in line with Macomb Township’s careful budgeting strategy.

“How much is too much all depends on who you ask,” he said. “Most people recommend a fund balance of 10-15 percent (of your total operating expenditures), but we like to be a little more comfortable than that.”

Besides, Koehs added, township officials are not just sitting on all that revenue. They are allocating a portion of their reserves to funding infrastructure upgrades in the coming years, including more than $4.3 million that has already been set aside for road improvements in 2013-14. These plans involve paving the township’s remaining gravel roads, widening major thoroughfares from two lanes to five, and adding more sidewalks and bypass lanes to existing corridors.

Future road paving projects include 24 Mile Road between Romeo Plank and Foss roads in 2014, Fairchild Road north of 24 Mile, and Luchtman Road north of 25 Mile Road. Road widening upgrades on the horizon include Hayes Road from 21 Mile Road to 23 Mile Road in 2014, North Avenue from Hall Road to 21 Mile in 2015, 23 Mile from North Avenue to Fairchild in 2016, and Romeo Plank from 21 1/2 Mile to 22 1/2 Mile in 2017.

The township’s wish list also contains plans for resurfacing 21 Mile between Romeo Plank and Garfield Road, as well as Fairchild between Hall Road and 21 Mile. In addition, officials would like to see Broughton Road extended southbound to 23 Mile, where it would connect with Heydenreich Road.

According to Koehs, the township’s $30 million fund balance is “one of the reasons why we’ve decided to look into a lot of these road construction projects right now. The recession is basically over at this point. We’re not all the way back to where we were before, but we’re getting a little closer every day. So now it’s time to take a look at some of these things that we put on the back burner a few years ago and see if we can make them happen.”