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Auditor tells Coast city leaders to stay out of reserves

OCEAN SPRINGS — Auditors have told Ocean Springs to avoid — if they can — dipping in cash reserves in preparing a new city budget.

City leaders borrowed $1.7 million from the city’s reserves last year, leaving $822,000.

Auditors told the board of aldermen that good financial practices recommend a reserves balance of $2.7 million based on the city’s budget of $18 million.

“Obviously, you can’t continue to dip into your fund balance. “So you probably have to come up with some tough decisions this year starting on your new budget,” said George A. Triggs, an accountant with Culumber, Fletcher, Harvey & Associates PA of Biloxi.

The city’s new budget year begins Oct. 1.

Triggs said the city took a hit in fiscal year 2011, which ended in September, when its assessed valuation dropped $10 million but the city’s debt also dropped.

That left the city with a debt capacity of $18.7 million, “which shows the strength of your bonding potential,” Triggs said.

Triggs said the city received $4.5 million in grants last year, but warned even with oil spill restoration money likely to come into the city, “there’s going to be some tough times.”

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