Winning awards for financial transparency is par for the course in Winters.
For nearly 20 years, Winters has walked away with the Government Finance Officers Association Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting.
“We want to be completely transparent and open about where our taxpayer dollars are being spent and why,” Mayor Cowan said.
The mayor added he believes local government is the only level of government that currently provides an honest accounting of where dollars are spent. Winters is proud to receive the accolade, according to Cowan, who said the 20-year winning streak speaks to the city’s limited staff’s tremendous hard work and dedication.
Winter’s financial reports are judged by an impartial panel that looks for a constructive “spirit of full disclosure” to communicate its economic story and motivate potential users and users to read the report.
Police Chief John P. Miller credits Winters retired and current Finance Officers Shelly Gunby and Cathy Matthews for excellent financial reporting.
“Municipal finances are difficult to fully grasp and digest, even in a small city like Winters,” Chief Miller said. “These audits and reports assure our city’s financial information is accessible and we are accountable, thereby maintaining public trust.”
Sometimes maintaining that public trust with limited funding means getting “pretty creative,” according to the police chief.
That creativity continues to win Winters the certificate that is the highest form of recognition in governmental accounting and financial reporting, representing a significant accomplishment by the governments that receive it.
Winters keeps it transparent by posting the annual budget document and other financial information on the city website. Miller said the budget document is a “snapshot,” but “rest assured; we keep those detailed records — even the receipts for the paper clips.”
“All these records are maintained by our Finance Department and are available to the public via Public Records Act,” Miller said.
To further increase accessibility, accountability, and efficiency, Miller said Winters is getting OpenGov.com. The cloud-based program improves internal budgeting processes, making information more readily available to the public via the web.
“Like many new techs, there have been some hiccups along the way implementing the program and all its potential functionality, but the City is still working diligently to bring that program to full fruition,” Miller said.
Bottom-line, an independent third-party audit review and a continuous award win result from honesty, according to the police chief.
“Hopefully, this reassures the public that Winters is operating properly, efficiently, and always with fidelity to the public trust,” Miller said.