(Repost from MRSC’s blog. Original available here.)
By Toni Nelson, MRSC
Financial policies are an essential component of any local government’s financial health, but financial policy needs vary considerably from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Different types of entities (cities, towns, counties, and special purpose districts) have different needs depending on size, scope of activities, organizational and staffing structures, contractual and program structures, and the governing body’s values and priorities. A boilerplate, one-size-fits-all approach will not work – but how do you know what policies you need, or what approach is right for your jurisdiction?
Well, MRSC is here to help! Working in partnership with the State Auditor’s Office Local Government Performance Center, we’ve just launched a series of online resources to help local governments in Washington State develop and adopt effective financial policies and procedures, as well as complying with SAO’s policy requirements as currently prescribed by BARS and recommended during audits. Continue reading
Since the original issuance of Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) Statement 34 in 1999, the Office of the Washington State Auditor has found the resulting financial statement presentations to be unnecessarily complex, less timely and more costly for state and local governments to prepare and have audited. These presentations are also more challenging to understand.
Financial statements prepared by state and local government entities in the United States are longer than those prepared by other organizations in the United States and around the world, due to the use of different accounting methods (e.g. modified-accrual and full-accrual) within the presentation.
School districts have asked the State Auditor’s Office to let them know in advance the areas they can expect auditors to emphasize in upcoming audits. This list will help your district prepare for audits examining FY 2016. If you have questions, your local audit team is available year round: they can answer technical questions and point you to additional guidance on specific areas of audit. Continue reading
The State Auditor’s Office is excited to bring back the popular annual report filing workshops. These workshops are designed to help local governments file their annual financial reports, and to meet the statutory requirement of submitting the report within 150 days of the close of their fiscal year.
New this year, participants can select a one-hour time slot for individualized assistance from a Local Government Support Specialist. Laptops will be provided. If you bring the materials you need to file your report, you may be able to complete and file during your appointment.
If you are interested, sign up for a one-hour time slot online at the training EventBrite website. These workshops are offered at no cost to local government participants. If you have questions, please contact Heidi Walter at 360-725-5621. For more information and updates, visit our website.
The Government Accounting Standards Board issued an invitation to comment on January 4 about potential changes to reporting of government funds, which GASB Chair Dave Vaudt recently described in a short video. The Board is seeking input on these ideas from local governments and other users during the preliminary stage of its project to re-evaluate the financial statement reporting model. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) for all state and local governments nationwide is set by GASB in accordance with an open, due process.
The State Auditor’s Office encourages local governments to follow the Board’s activities and provide input on potential accounting standards they will eventually need to follow.
For the past three years we have worked with the Department of Retirement Systems (DRS) to perform the GASB 68 census data audits at state and local government employers. We have enjoyed working with all of our state and local government partners to complete this important work for our state.
DRS recently contracted with Clifton, Larson, Allen, LLP (CLA) to perform this work going forward. This CPA firm has contracted with DRS for many years, including auditing the DRS CAFR. DRS informed the State Auditor’s Office that they were happy both with our work and the relationship we have developed–the decision to contract with CLA simply provides them with administrative efficiency by having one point of contact for all of the work performed.
DRS is currently working with CLA to determine which entities will be audited during the upcoming year. They are also working on communication that will go out to all state and local government employers. You can expect a similar timeline as in the past, with work beginning in January or February each year and wrapping up by August 31st. DRS will inform employers who have been selected for audit in January 2017, and CLA will contact you to schedule the engagement. If you have any questions you can contact employer support services at email@example.com
For further resources, please visit the DRS website.
The GAAP and Cash Basis BARS manuals have been updated and are available on our website at www.sao.wa.gov.
In both manuals, the sections applicable to all government types are annotated with “All.” Any section applicable to a specific government type is clearly marked with the government type designation. Continue reading
The State Auditor’s Office and the Department of Transportation (WSDOT) have been working together supported by the County Road Administration Board and the Washington State Association of Counties to eliminate duplicate reporting. Currently, counties and cities in Washington State are required to submit an annual street report to WSDOT in June. The data reported in this street report is duplicative of revenues, expenditures and debt information reported to the State Auditor’s Office in the annual financial report submission due at the end of May. Many counties and cities have requested to only submit this information once; we are working to make that happen. Continue reading
The Budgeting, Accounting, and Reporting System (BARS) roundtables are underway in various locations all over the state. Discussion in these free three hour meetings presented by the State Auditor’s Office, includes many topics such as: Information on changes to the BARS manual, a preview of requirements for upcoming GASB standards, demonstration of the Financial Analysis Tool (FIT), and discussion of other valuable resources and trainings free to local governments. We held the roundtables last year all across the state, and were very pleased to see the high turnout and interaction from participants. This year, we changed the roundtable format slightly to encourage even more in-depth interaction, as we value your opinions.
Roundtables are a great opportunity for you to ask questions and network with peers. Plan to come and share your ideas and suggestions. We look forward to hearing from you about how we can better be of help and improve to our services. The roundtables continue through December 15, 2016 in various locations and space is available so please check the upcoming schedule and sign up for one near you.
Have you ever used the same password for your work PC as your home banking account or private email? Do you sometimes open email attachments before checking that the message is from someone you know and trust? Maybe you need to be #CyberAware! Continue reading