North Bonneville faces financial woes

City trying to recoup $1.1 million in losses, predicts turnaround

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

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One Skamania County city remains mired in financial problems despite taking steps to reduce its expenses, according to a report released Monday by the Washington State Auditor's Office.

The city of North Bonneville has contended with dwindling funds in recent years, losing more than $1.1 million in total cash and investments between 2006 and 2011. But city officials say they're making headway on recouping some of those losses.

One reason: The city says its 2013 budget was largely balanced without relying on revenue from anticipated construction projects. Because of that, the city expects its financial situation to improve in the coming years, as it moves away from relying on a stagnant construction market.

City officials wrote in a response to the state audit that they believe the city is on track to achieve a robust financial turnaround no later than 2015.

Don Stevens, mayor of North Bonneville, said the city has taken a number of corrective measures in the past three years.

"We are in the process of putting together a formal plan and continue to look for ways to live within our means without compromising on the level of service we provide to our residents," Stevens said.

Still, the city's most recent audit report is the second in less than two years, and it signals a tough financial period for the city of 956 residents.

The auditor's office told North Bonneville it had concerns the city's bank reconciliations didn't balance and the city hadn't "been able to dedicate the resources to determine why."

More than that, the general fund also relied on transfers from the city's restricted account without "adequate supporting documentation," according to the auditor's report.

The current report essentially echoes what the auditor's office found the last time it released one in February 2012.

That last audit covered a time period stretching from 2009 to 2010.

The current audit covers the 2011 calendar year.

The previous report stated North Bonneville's financial situation was so dire it could be forced to take out bank loans or find alternative funding sources to pay off its debts, moves that could create additional costs for the city's ratepayers and taxpayers.

But the city says it took positive steps as the new year approached.

North Bonneville officials point to increased tax rates and service charges as reasons why its 2012 year-end total cash balance was up by 24 percent over 2011.

Meanwhile, the city general fund’s year-end cash balance was $145,000 at the end of 2012, a 439 percent increase over 2011.

That represents a three-month reserve, the city says.


Tyler Graf: 360-735-4517; http://twitter.com/col_smallcities; tyler.graf@columbian.com.