Elk Grove Wins Financial Reporting Award; Public Finance's Version of a Kids' Soccer Trophy?

UPDATED June 12, 2014, 9:15 a.m. June 10, 2014 | The City of Elk Grove recently announced it is the recipient of the Distinguished F...

UPDATED June 12, 2014, 9:15 a.m.

June 10, 2014 |

The City of Elk Grove recently announced it is the recipient of the Distinguished Financial Reporting Award. The award, which is presented by the Government Finance Officers Associations (GFOA), was the 12th such award in a row earned by the city.

“This award represents the city’s commitment to transparent financial reporting and fiduciary responsibility,” Mayor Gary Davis said. “Congratulations to the City of Elk Grove’s Finance Department for this outstanding achievement, and for accurately and effectively keeping the community informed about the City’s financial health.”

Aside from the nice window dressing these awards provide as a preface to a city's annual budget, how meaningful are they?
Vallejo won a financial reporting award from the
GFOA in the years leading up to its bankruptcy.

In a January, 2013 piece posted on the Orange County Register's Watchdog page said the GFOA awards, "measures good looks more than substance."

The story further points out, that government agencies seeking these various awards essentially pay a fee to the GFOA to be considered. The fee, according to the award application on the GFOA's website, range anywhere from $290 to $2,190 depending on size of the entity and membership in the organization.

As of this posting, the City of Elk Grove has not responded to an inquiry emailed earlier this afternoon seeking information of its membership in the GFOA and if a fee was paid for consideration of the award.

As noted by the OC Register, even though San Bernardino won a GFOA Distinguished Budget Presentation Award in 2011, it was in bankruptcy soon thereafter. Closer to home, Vallejo won a GFOA award prior to its bankruptcy. 

None of these awards should be mistaken for a certified public accountant's audit that looks for adherence to GAAP's, and not even necessarily the financial well-being of an organization. So while the award may recognize efforts to add a table of contents to a report, document year-over-year changes and attempt to give that over-used catch-phrase of every cliche' riddled politician - transparency - some credence, these awards are seemingly sought for their public relations value.  

Or, as we prefer to look at it, awarding of the certificates is not much different than the trophy every kid gets at the end of the soccer season. 

Orange slices anyone?

Update

The City has been a member of GFOA since 2002 and paid a $580 application for award consideration.   






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17 comments

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what point you are making with this article. Are you suggesting that Elk Grove shouldn't apply for the yearly award because it doesn't mean anything? Then you would be writing an article speculating why Elk Grove is the only city that DIDN'T win a distinguished reporting award. I believe that the financial reporting for government entities has some strict guidelines for format, content, etc. Is it possible that the "award" merely acknowledges that the guidelines were followed and nothing was written in crayon or had coffee stains on the pages? No, I am not a government employee, for those who will make that accusation, but I can't helping observing that this site never, ever says anything positive. It seems to look for any crumb of information to be cynical and critical. Let's just roll our eyes next time a kid proudly shows us his soccer trophy. And if you say there is no comparison, remember that YOU brought it up!

Anonymous said...

To Anon above...let me take a stab at why this article is here. Now, I did not write it or condone it or suggest it be written. I, like you, like to see other opinions of local issues. My take on this article is that our city again and again points to this award as some mark of excellence on staffs' part. They fail to mention they must pay to be considered eligible to win. This "pay to win" situation seems as if you must "purchase" the award instead of actually doing something extraordinary to win the award. The city is not transparent in how it announces this award; the city is not transparent when you ask for financial records (as this site and many others have experienced firsthand) and the mere fact the city lauds this award as "something not everyone wins" sets us up to believe it was truly EARNED instead of merely being BOUGHT. The irony of it all is convoluted at best. The city tries its best to taut their financial savvy, but has continuously spend our tax dollars in an unwise manner...let’s see 1 million for a civic center site plan that they shelved; over 1 million for the SOI that no one but the city supports; 700,000 for a soccer feasibility study...we must have a bookcase full of feasibility studies...costing well over 1 million each....not really "financially sound" principles, if you ask me. What I think I hate the most is the fact the city is trying to "snow" us all on this one.

Anonymous said...

Paying an entry fee with an application is not "buying an award". Don't most competitions have an entry fee that covers expenses? I completely agree that the city makes baffling (and dumb) financial decisions but that is not what this report is about. It's a report of revenue and expenses, not an evaluation of how smart the decisions were. I'm sure a group of people worked very hard on this product and are proud of their achievement. Choose your battles. I don't know why everything that involves the city has to be so negative and sarcastic.

Capt. Benjamin L. Willard said...

Perhaps the better way is if the GFOA gave something more like an accreditation or certification rather than an award. Something like a UL certification, Underwriter Laboratories. An award has a subjective, popularity element that cheapens it while a certification or accreditation seems more objective and credible.

Anonymous said...

Capt. Benjamin, that expresses the issue perfectly and offers a wonderful solution. It probably would never happen, but at least you gave a well thought, practical assessment and response without unnecessarily trashing anybody. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Whenever the city issues a Press Release, be prepared to roll up your pants legs and give it the sniff test. Smoke and mirrors are hard to detect, but you can be sure the local television news and print media outlets will help milk the story.

Anonymous said...

To the first poster: Wow, who's being cynical and critical? - Better take your pills!

Anonymous said...

Yes, this blog is mostly frequented by mean, petty, angry people. Some may call them trolls but we certainly wouldn't want to offend them. We'll just call them "decency challenged." Shhh... they're coming back again... wait for it....

Anonymous said...

To first poster:
Are you sure you don't work for the city??? Your standards are so high… "Is it possible that the "award" merely acknowledges that the guidelines were followed and nothing was written in crayon or had coffee stains on the pages?" Yup, that's our city. No coffee stains; no crayons. Thank god they all get GREAT benefits and GREAT pay. And, oh this award....they probably can't sleep at nights knowing the competition was soo stringent!
This is just window dressing for the city manager. Hell, STOCKTON got one of these awards! We're in great company. I guess it's OK to get awards, but when you publish a PRESS RELEASE as if the event was a mind-blowing event, then get what you get. Don't try to fool us all with perfume and sparkles. We know the smell...and we've seen it all before. Can't fool some of us twice.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the first poster. Maybe I just didn’t know that Elk Grove News.net’s sole purpose is to bash the city and its staff at every opportunity. In that case, I should just stop checking it because I expected to see a fair assessment of what’s going on. Surely there must be SOMETHING good that the city is doing. It can’t be all bad. The article earlier about trash not being picked up was so silly. An employee made an error. So what? This article about the city receiving an award for a financial report has nothing at all to do with what they are spending their money on, but it is written in a way to make us think it does. This site never acknowledges that the city has a balanced budget, and a healthy rainy day fund, year after year. No one ever says thank you for the hundreds of thousands of dollars that are given to non-profit groups. No one ever makes a comment that they contacted the city about a problem and the person they talked to was helpful and the problem was resolved. When a city employee decides to leave, you want to know "what's behind it" as if people don't leave jobs for better opportunities. And time after time when a crime occurs and the police catch the criminal, the only comments that appear are cynical remarks. We have a wonderful police department but unfortunately, only Superman can be at the scene of a crime before it happens. Am I really the only one that would like to see some positive articles? This is just too darn depressing!

Anonymous said...

Set your expectations a little (a lot) lower and you'll enjoy it a bit more. EGN certainly has bias - certainly has an agenda... First and foremost, to generate traffic for ad revenue. Whipping the trolls into a frenzy certainly helps to increase traffic. You see - for good or for bad, EGN bias helps EGN.
Once you understand that, it is actually humorous to sit back and watch some of the profoundly ignorant statements some of the trolls make.
Don't think of it as journalism, think of it as a window into the small minds and souls of small people.

Anonymous said...

Anon 14:46 - it used to be kind of amusing but I guess I've reached my threshold for mean spirited comments. It would be one thing if the articles were unbiased but lately even the articles are just plain mean. I honestly don't know why anyone would want to work for the city - and I don't mean the council members or upper management. I mean the every day worker bees who just go to work and do their jobs and then read the insulting things people say about them. Maybe I'm just thin skinned.

Anonymous said...

15:24...
Agreed. A small band of mean spirited people lurk here. The best option is to avoid this blog altogether, if it bothers you. While it doesn't make it right, I bet most of the staff, council and commissions recognize EGN for what it is... A place for the petty people to sound off. A place where the so-called editor, Dan, can throw out manipulate half-truths. A place where a small band of reasonably intelligent people with self-serving agendas incite the trolls. A place where the trolls spew bile about baseless accusations of fraud and corruption.
I'm sure it is hard for them to hear but they are intelligent enough to recognize yellow journalism.
Again, laugh with it or save your sanity and don't come back... They aren't going to change. And, if you want to deny EGN it's agenda, don't click on it... Clicks generate revenue and that's what keeps the blog going.

Anonymous said...

I guess a few city employees have time on their hands. Let's analyze some of your comments:

"This site never acknowledges that the city has a balanced budget, and a healthy rainy day fund, year after year” (why is this?) Taxes...my taxes, your taxes...we pay way too much in taxes and it shows)
"No one ever says thank you for the hundreds of thousands of dollars that are given to non-profit group". (why do we give so much to nonprofits?) Pat Hume once said that if there is so much left over each year in the budget then our taxes are too high...I must actually agree with Pat on this one.
“No one ever makes a comment that they contacted the city about a problem and the person they talked to was helpful and the problem was resolved". Because many times they are not solved. I have called EGPD Commercial division 9 times for violations of commercial vehicles being parked on our residential streets. Know what happens? Nothing. Commercial trucks still park there overnight and EGPD "warns them". GREAT JOB.
Although I like the thought of our own police dept., they will bankrupt us. The police budget eats up well over 65% of our budget; and the retirement costs will kill us when that piper comes due.
Our city spends our money without little thought or consideration. So many examples exists. How about the RFP for police vehicles that cost us an extra 30,000 plus lawyer fees? How about this stupid soccer stadium and the feasibility study we're into to the tune of nearly 1 million dollars?
If this city actually did something worthwhile (like take care of traffic or had an efficient government) then they would be recognized for such.
How about having a city attorney who isn't a city employee? His employer benefits when the city gets sued because the "city attorney" bills the city for each hour; scratch my back....
How about a city manager who is a b@tch? How many good employees have to leave before the council boots her butt out the door? Oh, wait...that's right, she paid to get an award for financial mediocrity.
Our city standards are just so darn low...it's just depressing (to use your own words). The frustration you feel about this site is the same frustration we feel about our city.
As someone once said when describing EG "corrupt as Bell". That sort of sums it up.
My advice to you....turn EGN off...it apparently depresses you. We don't need any more depressed folks in this town. There are enough of them attending city council meetings.

EGN Troll said...

EGN may be "yellow journalism", but they sure sent the Council into a tailspin and rapid retreat on Nigeria huh!

Anonymous said...

You give too much credit to EGN and don't give any to M. Monasky. EGN simply became an echo chamber. The demise of the idea came immediately following his remarks. Believe that.

To Each They Own Website said...

It appears that people have their different online websites where they go to "discuss" Elk Grove's local government.

Once there was a large contingency that frequented Elk Grove Online with "LC" being the king over there. Then a bunch of them got kicked off and so Elk Grove-Laguna was born.

That website is frequented by those same people with LC and Tom Waltman and few others their only constant contributors. They appear to simply talk amongst themselves, are of like minds, and they don't really like to hear from anyone with dissenting opinions.

And interesting to note that Local Government and Politics over on EGO has been dead for many years now.

So everyone has their niche and EGN provides another avenue. But it appears that people are reading and commenting.

One other note: Funny that the Elk Grove Citizen prints most of its local government articles after they appear on EGN.

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