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Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Get out your green eyeshade

At long last, the City of Portland's annual financial statements for the year ended last June 30 showed up on the internet tonight. The letter of transmittal from the city finance folks to the City Council is dated December 20, and I'm not sure what caused the two-week delay in getting it posted. Indeed, the outside auditor's work was done by November 14 -- it would be fun to know what the additional five-plus weeks were all about. Last year, for example, the internal transmittal letter and the outside auditor's report were dated the same day.

Anyway, it's reassuring to know that the City Council won't be docked any pay for tardiness.

The whole thing apparently has not yet been assembled into a single file, but the constituent pieces all appear to be linked here. Dig in, if you can stand the tedium of it -- as I will be doing. I'll post when and as I notice stuff. If anybody has any bright insights or sees anyone else's commentary anywhere, please let us all know in the comments.

Comments (12)

With Green shielded eyes, I would recommend this document of the mix.


page 60 A Cash and Investments, and Page 66 and 67

On page 60 you will find the following.

Non-Revenue, (ie NOT sewer, water, etc, for which you pay fees and are self sustaining).

Those Govermental Activities, Police, Fire, Parks, Planning, etc, total $351 million. PDC sucks up $94.9 million.

For every $100 the City spends on essential public services, it spends $27 on PDC's escapades.

What is worse is if you look closer, the Restricted funds of $85 million, are the Levy taxes, Debt Service, and capital projects which are bonded.

So in General fund money, not extra taxes you pay, then for every $100 the City spends for Essential public services, it spends $36 on PDC.

Now go to page 67 of the same document.

Note that your city's assets are rotting away at $156 million/year.

Parks at $4.7/year. Just think if they hadn't bought the $8 million landscaping lot for Homer's condos and actually made the developer pay for that like they do in Planning Nirvana Vancouver BC. They might have made some progress this year on the $50-$70 million in deferred maintenance.

Roads rotting away at $156 million a year.
Again the Tram $57 million, and millions borrowed from the transportation fund for completing the Streetcar could have helped out slowing the rot as well.

But the kicker comes when you look at page 28 in

Page 28 Ability for Debt is $1.3 Billion ($1.96B-$66M)

And compare it to the Cities total cumulated depreciation of $2.8 billion.

It is not different than an upside down car loan, and it will soon be Goldman Sacs to the rescue as we give away more assets bought by the people with hard earned tax dollars, because of mismangment and making the rich richer.

Isn't $1.96 billion minus $66 million $1.834 billion.

I'm not a finance person, but shouldn't the "upside down" reference be compared to the value of the assets rather than the debt limit? I think in this case the assets are the infrastructure, the value of which is not stated in the document.

How is this for interesting (from the "Statistical Section":

A drop in enrollment in PPS over the last 10 fiscal years from 58,022 students to 47,006.

Here is the city line (received in communication with the mayor's office) explaining the two-week delay in releasing the report to the public:

"Our Financial Planning auditors provided letters of opinion on schedule on December 20, and CAFR assembly orders were sent to our Printing and Distribution division later that same day. Financial Planning has already received proofs and a few edits are in the works."

Is that what they said today?

State law requires that this document be finalized by Dec. 31, or else the mayor and council don't get paid until it is. I don't think state law accepts a "draft," unless the state treasurer has granted an extension.


Thanks for the catch you are absolutely right, that's what I get for doing napkin math instead of taking the time to put it in a spreadsheet.

The reason I called it upside down was because even with the corrected math, the $1.834 Billion limit of bonding capacity is less than the $2.3 Billion Total Accumulated Depreciation on Govermental assets, so even if we wanted to fix things we don't have the bonding capacity to do so, and are losing ground at a negative $156 million/year. And put that in perspective that the entire General Fund support for Police, Fire, and Parks is $351 million, it doesn't make it look like we had a surplus that the commissioners split up for thier pet projects a few months ago.

Jack - while the auditors may have been done on November 14th, they don't prepare the financial statements. City staff prepares the financial statements, but a lot of that depends on the auditors finalizing their work.

Most large governments take well into December to complete financial statements and it isn't uncommon to get an extension from the state.

Don't try to make this more than it is. Most of those who work on preparing the financial statements are accounting professionals who don't care about the Commission's politics.

accounting professionals who don't care about the Commission's politics.

That may be true. But there are discrepancies with the dates here that are troubling -- whatever the cause. Please don't patronize us with "everybody does it, you just don't understand."

If the city plays with the financials for months after the outside auditors sign off on them, what good is the audit?

Additionally, I note that the report on expenditures of federal grant funds is now not scheduled for release until "approximately" sometime in March.

Nine months is a long time.

John - I think you're misinterpreting the cash and investments footnotes on page 60. Those figures represent cash balances as of June 30, 2006. The general fund typically has its lowest balances at that point because Property taxes come in November. It also isn't surprising that PDC had a large cash balance - they may be sitting on bond proceeds reserved for future projects.

A better comparison would be to look at the actual property taxes the City received in the general fund versus PDC. I can find the number for the General Fund (it's in the neighborhood of 160 million), but it doesn't look like the comparable section is posted for the PDC yet.

On the depreciation, understand that that figure is a straight line figure - it doesn't necessarily represent the actual condition of assets. I wouldn't argue that the City's transportation infrastructure is in bad shape - it certainly is. But the depreciation numbers that show up in the financial statements are derived by accountants - not engineers or appraisers. Take the capital asset and depreciation numbers with a big grain of salt. And that just doesn't go for the City of Portland - pretty much any government in the Country.

Or any business. Book value of assets is not a very meaningful number. It's based on historical cost, and unrealistic depreciation estimates.

Jack - I don't want to be patronizing, but you don't understand. After the auditors complete their work, it still takes quite a while to assemble the final report. There are sections that aren't audited (like the entire statistical section) and really remedial tasks like ensuring that all of the schedules foot properly and that they aren't off by dollars here and there. It is a long process that involves a lot of work by City staff after the auditors have completed their task. They attest that the financial statements are fairly reported - they don't prepare the financial statements.

Jack Bog: "Is that what they said today?

State law requires that this document be finalized by Dec. 31, or else the mayor and council don't get paid until it is. I don't think state law accepts a "draft," unless the state treasurer has granted an extension."

Me: No, my inquiry was made on the 12.23, and I received the response on the morning of the 27th. It is important to add that my sole question was when the report would be released, not why there was a relative delay in comparison to recent years.

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