San Benito earns clean audit

SAN BENITO — The city’s cash reserve has reached the goal City Manager Manuel De La Rosa set.

Since last year, the fund balance has increased from $3 million to $4.2 million, capable of running the city for 120 days, the mark De La Rosa has worked to reach since taking over as city manager more than three years ago.

“The city has substantially increased the reserve to 120 operating days,” Finance Director Belen Peña stated yesterday.

During the 2017-2018 fiscal year, the fund balance stood at $3 million, enough to operate the city for 103 days, according to the city’s annual financial audit.

The city has steadily increased its cash reserve in recent years.

By 2012, the fund balance stood at $2.4 million, capable of running the city for 94 days.

Then three years ago, commissioners and De La Rosa set their goal to build the cash reserve fund.

In a meeting Tuesday, auditor Carlos Cascos told city commissioners the city needs a strong cash reserve to operate in case of flooding spawned by hurricanes.

Cascos, a former Cameron County judge and secretary of state, said the Federal Emergency Management Agency can take years to reimburse the city for money spent addressing flood damage.

“That’s why it’s important to have a strong fund balance so you can continue operating while we’re waiting for FEMA reimbursements,” Cascos, with Cascos & Associates, said. “For the city to open its doors every single day costs you almost $32,000.”

During his presentation, Cascos gave the city’s bookkeeping high marks.

“I want to compliment the City Commission for once again earning an unqualified opinion, which is the best opinion an independent audit can give an entity,” Cascos said. “This audit is clean. This audit is fairly stated.”

Cascos also cited the city for its strong financial checks and balances.

“It demonstrates whether internal controls are functioning,” he said.

The audit shows the city’s general fund budget operated on $11.9 million while expenditures reached $11.5 million.

“You did a good job budgeting,” Cascos said.

While property tax revenue generated $4.2 million, retail sales tax revenue added $4.6 million, the audit shows.

Public safety made up the city’s top expenditure, totaling $5.5 million for the police and fire departments.

Meanwhile, the public works department spent $2.3 million.

The city’s long-term debt stands at $32 million.

General fund budget

$11.9 million — Total revenues

$11.5 million — Total expenditures

$4.2 million — Property tax revenue

$4.6 million — Sales tax revenue

$1.7 million — Fees and charges