LL receives unqualified audit report

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Los Lunas residents can continue to feel confident the village accounting department is diligently keeping track of taxpayer funding and revenue spending after the village received another clean audit for fiscal year 2011-12.

The independent audit was conducted by Axiom Certified Public Accountants and Business Advisers, who gave the village financial statements an unqualified opinion, the highest audit rating there is.

"That means your financial statements are materially correct in our opinion," Chris Garner, Axiom principal, told the village council. "Unqualified doesn't always sound the best, but that's what you strive for. So, our opinion is a clean opinion on your financial statements."

The council approved the audit report at a recent meeting.

"We have a good staff," said Monica Clarke, the village's financial officer. "We've always had an unqualified."

Clarke has worked for the village 21 years and has never seen less than an unqualified opinion on the village's audit reports, she said.

The accounting department has two other staff members, Tammy Manns, the purchasing specialist, and Loretta Griego, payroll and human resources specialist.

Los Lunas holds the highest credit rating achievable, a triple A credit rating with Standard & Poor and Moody's, which is most likely attributable to decades of clean audits.

"It certainly does help with federal awards and grant awards," Clarke said. "More importantly, it helps our bond rating. If we go out for a GRT (gross receipts tax) revenue bond and our bond agent is looking for investors, they can see the village is financially sound, that our financial statements are in order."

The top credit rating allows the village government to borrow money at the best possible interest rate.

"We have to congratulate both current staff and past staff for working so diligently to keep our financial affairs in order," said Gregory Martin, village administrator. "It reflects the professionalism and consciousness to watch over the village funds."

Financial audits provide independent assurance that the financial statements are correct and provide transparency and accountability in government.

"Everything in here is stated correctly," Clarke said. "It's not overstated or understated, and the audit findings are meant to help us maintain internal controls — making sure we're complying with state auditor rules to making sure we're complying with state statutes."

The Los Lunas accounting department also submits quarterly financial statements to the state Department of Finance and Administration.

"It makes sure we're tracking everything correctly, not overspending, and meeting the requirements of the general fund 10 percent reserve," Clarke said.

Most audits are not without some gigs, and there were a few findings in the village audit.

One of the findings concerns was not having an updated insurance risks and premiums study. Since the village isn't a member of the Retiree Health Care Authority, and manages its own private post-employment retiree health care plan, the village has to make sure it has a current actuary study, Clarke said.

The study is being done by Milliman, a reputable provider of actuarial services out of Colorado, but it wasn't ready for the new audit.

Other findings concern the village's HUD housing transfer to El Camino Real Housing Authority. The paperwork and processes have delayed completion.

Most of the findings should be gone next year, Garner said.

In other business, the council:

•Approved a scenic by-ways grant of $24,000 with a village match of 20 percent for Route 66 signage and historic monuments between Interstate 25 and N.M. 314. The village is one of the last recipients in the program that has now been discontinued.

• Approved an extension of the memorandum of understanding between the village and the Mid-Region Council of Governments for another year for continued consultation and assistance with documents, studies and the preparation of maps for the Morris Road corridor.

Councilor Gerard Saiz abstained from voting because he owns land in the corridor and said it posed a conflict of agreement.

• Approved a one-year extension of the cooperative agreement with the New Mexico Department of Transportation for continued assistance in the process of land acquisition for the Morris Road corridor.

The village has a little more than $2 million left over from the GRIP 2 cooperative funding agreement with the state, but the agreement would have expired on June 30, 2013.

The money is for the purchase of about nine properties of land on the corridor right-of-way, and the relocation of home owners.

"They've (DOT) been helping us to actually acquire properties," said Christina Ainsworth, director of community development. "They follow the federal process for right-of-way acquisitions. They go out and interview all the property owners, find out what their needs are, and they do a prioritization based on different factors.

"Then they go ahead and make the offers to the people and help them find replacement housing, and handle all the paperwork for the real estate transaction."

• Approved a memorandum of agreement with the Los Lunas School District to support operations of the swimming pool. The village agreed to pay $35,000 — $5,000 more than last year.

The additional funding is to help the school district offset diving board and locker room roof repairs of the 30-year-old facility. The MOA was approved by unanimous vote.

"It's a great program," said Councilor Charles Griego. "It's a great place to go."


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.