A recent audit shows the city of Sandy Springs reserves are back up to levels not seen since before the start of the recession in 2008.

City Council on Jan. 15 received a report on the audit from Adam Fraley, a CPA with Mauldin & Jenkins. Fraley said the city’s audit showed no findings, meaning there is nothing city financial staff will have to correct before next year’s audit.

The audit for Fiscal Year 2012 shows the city’s reserves, called a general fund balance, increased to $35 million from $21.5 million in Fiscal 2011. Fraley said most of the balance – 95 percent – is unassigned, meaning it hasn’t been designated for any purpose. The last time the reserves reached that level was in 2008, the audit shows.

Sandy Springs Finance Director Karen Ellis said the increase in reserves is partially because the city in 2011 rebid all of its government service contracts.

“This was the year that the savings were realized,” Ellis said.

City Manager John McDonough said rebidding the contract saved $7 million.

The audit shows the city in Fiscal 2012 collected $82.2 million in revenue, mostly from taxes, in Fiscal 2012, a $2.8 million increase over Fiscal 2011. The city in Fiscal 2012 spent a total of $57.5 million, a $9 million decrease from the previous year. According to the audit, Fiscal 2012 was also the first year since Fiscal 2008 where the city took in more taxpayer money than it spent.

The auditor did make a few observations about the city’s financial practices:

Auditors noted that 16 city employees built up more vacation time than allowed under city policy, the audit showed. Spokeswoman Sharon Kraun said this was the result of an error that has been corrected and that no employee was able to take or receive payment for more vacation or than allowed under city policy.

Auditors also found that there were issues with the payments from the city’s Hospitality Board. The auditors found that “several invoices which were paid that did not have the proper, independent, departmental approval.” Auditors were unable to locate three hospitality board invoices, the summary report says. Kraun said this was the result of switching over to a different accounting system.

“Regarding the three Hospitality invoices,  the invoices were properly routed and paid,” Kraun said. “During the conversion to a new accounting software, which was conducted after the invoices were processed, the  invoices were missed as we scanned back documents. They were never lost or misplaced.”

The city will release the full audit report on Jan. 16.

In other action, the council:

–          Awarded approximately $50,000 to local nonprofits. The city gave $12,000 to Heritage Sandy Springs; $7,668 to Mary Hall Freedom House; $9,990 to the Child Development Association; $5,000 to Art Sandy Springs; and $15,000 to Sandy Springs Education Force.

–          Approved $1.4 million in tax breaks for Cox Enterprises. The company plans to construct a 578,000 square foot building at a cost of more than $100 million. The project is expected to bring 1,500 additional jobs to the city with an average annual salary of approximately $62,000. The company will receive most of the incentives in 2013 in the form of a $1.3 million impact and building permit fee waiver. Cox Enterprises’ media holdings include the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt wrote for Reporter Newspapers from 2011 - 2014. He is the founder and editor of Decaturish.com