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City’s finances completely transparent

  • Harry Williams

Hardeeville is finalizing plans to address critical infrastructure needs in 2017, including the construction of a badly needed Fire Station81 on Martin Street, the expansion of Police Headquarters and Municipal Court, and the relocation and construction of a new public works facility.

This ambitious program would have been impossible if the city had not first addressed the restructuring of the finance department.

Upon his arrival in Hardeeville, City Manager Michael Czymbor recognized the need to revamp our financial reporting, fundmanagement, and budgeting process.

The first and perhaps most critical step was the appointment of Niema Gantt to Finance Director in January 2016.

Gantt came to Hardeeville with 10 years of municipal finance experience and began to forge a team with Heather Crider, accountspayable clerk, and Cynthia Oliver, business license coordinator.

In November 2016, Don Lilly joined the team as accountant, and this year they will write the city’s Comprehensive Annual FinancialReport for the first time without using outside services.

Also for the first time, all fund balances were included within the budget document, making the city’s financial position completelytransparent.

Checking accounts have been consolidated into an interest-bearing account. Restricted funds have been invested into the SouthCarolina Local Government Investment Pool.

These strategies have eliminated service fees and raised interest income. Business license rate classes and fee schedules have been updated in compliance with MASC guidelines, thereby achieving state standardization.

Efficiency has been achieved by upgrading the financial software, thereby reducing time-consuming manual entries. Standard operating procedures for the use of credit cards and purchase cards by authorized personnel have made policy clear and processing simple.

In anticipation of the city’s growing financial needs, Public Financial Management Inc. was retained as financial advisers in 2016. It will assist the management team with investment choices and financing our many infrastructure projects.

Good news follows good work, and Hardeeville has much to cheer. The City’s Annual Report received the GFOA (Government Finance Officers Association) Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting for the 2016 Audit, and last month Moody’s Investors Service raised our credit rating from A2 to A1. This is a significant accomplishment as we look to fund our 2017 projects.

Hardeeville is facing its very bright future with optimism, careful planning and financial prudence, and the financial community is taking notice.

Thanks to the growth that good management has stimulated, Hardeeville will achieve its goals and simultaneously reduce its millage rate. The city’s millage rate has been reduced from 153 in 2012 to 123 in 2016, and the council will look for a further reduction in 2017.

For more information on the budget or other financial information, visit www.cityofhardeeville.com.

Harry Williams is mayor of the city of Hardeeville.

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