North Miami - NMB

North Miami needs monthly updates on its finances, auditor recommends

The North Miami City Council had money on its mind Tuesday night when the annual audit report revealed some discrepancies and raised concerns about staff members being overworked.

The report, presented at the council meeting by Roderick Harvey of the firm Harvey, Covington and Thomas, said the city is not in a state of “financial crisis,” but he noted that the presentation is based on the prior fiscal year, which ended last September.

The firm suggested that the council be updated on the city’s finances on a monthly basis. The city staff has delivered quarterly reports, but the report indicated that the staff might not be equipped to present monthly reports until the end of this fiscal year.

“If you wait for me to come in once a year and say you’re in good standings or not, in my opinion as a professional and as your auditor, that is way too long,” Harvey said.

The main discrepancy the report revealed was with the accounting between the city and its community redevelopment agency (CRA). The city’s process is to pay most of the CRA’s project costs, according to the report, and then provide the CRA with an invoice and adjustment. The firm called this a “control weakness” and reported that a discrepancy of about $100,000 was not sorted out until this month.

The presentation also pointed out that some accounts receivable and liability schedules were received late and had to be changed later in the auditing process. The firm suggested that the city “determine the appropriate level of financial staffing resources and software application training.”

Council member Scott Galvin said that last year over a period of several months, the finance staff had to bring in a group of part-time staff members to bring the transactions on the city’s ledger up to date. Margaret Steele Miller, the city’s chief accountant, said the city was about 14 months behind on those transactions and the lack of staffing was a major part of the issue.

“There was really a void, and it really was time-consuming based on the implementation of the software,” Miller said. “We’re still trying to understand how some of the transactions were processed.”

Galvin said it was “hugely concerning” and “inexcusable” that the council and community did not know about those issues.

“It was never made red-flag waving clear to the City Council that there were issues,” Galvin said.

The council also approved an $800,000 allocation for a beautification program in District 3 that will mainly help senior citizens and disabled individuals. Council members agreed to remove a potential allocation of $1.9 million to be used in the other areas of the city after extended discussion from the public about where the city would find the money for a citywide program in the upcoming fiscal year.

In order to qualify for the beautification program, the resident must own the home, his or her annual income must be at or less than 80 percent of the area’s median income, and the home cannot have code violations or liens.