Los Alamos County Celebrates 25 Years Of Financial Reporting Excellence
By KIRSTEN LASKEY
Los Alamos Daily Post
Twenty five plaques showcasing Los Alamos County’s accomplishments in financial reporting and budget presentation audits line the wall inside the Finance Department.
In fact, since Fiscal Year 1991, Los Alamos County has earned the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) Certificate in Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), as well as the Distinguished Budget Presentation Awardfor the past 24 years, Chief Financial Officer Joe D’Anna said.
Additional awards added to the wall include the 2012 and 2014 New Mexico Association of Counties Audit Accountability Awards for a mid-size county, D’Anna said. He said the only other municipality in the state to be honored more times for its work in finance is Albuquerque.
“We strive to achieve the standards of the Government Finance Officers Association certificate of achievement … ultimately I think that drives a lot of our accounting practices and design of our internal controls,” D’Anna said.
He explained former County Administrator Max Baker and former Finance Project Manager Judith Peterick set the goal for the County to earn the GFOA recognitions.
Since then, the County has consistently achieved this goal. “Once you attain that award, it becomes a goal to continue it every year,” D’Anna said.
D’Anna also credited the Finance Department team and the rest of the county staff for allowing each audit to be a success.
“I think we have a good financial team that is well poised to continue the financial successes we’ve had in the past,” he said.
Additionally, the County has staff members with the experience and knowledge to successfully perform audits, D’Anna said. Its Finance Department has been staffed with many Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) who have had experience working with audits. Knowing what auditors look for helps make the audit process go smoothly, he said.
Deputy Chief Financial Officer Helen Perraglio echoed D’Anna’s thoughts. “We have an amazing team, and I really enjoyed leading them in the preparation of the CAFR and all the work that it takes,” she said.
Perraglio added that for years the finance team has consistently maintained the level of work necessary to be successful, even given the fact that governments are subjected to more and more complex reporting requirements from the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB).
“We’ve become the power team, and it takes everyone with their specialized area of expertise and motivation to work the long hours necessary to achieve our goals,” she said.
Perraglio, also a Certified Public Accountant, comes to the County with several years of experience as a former auditor, and performed the accounting oversight and financial reporting for Santa Fe County for 5 years prior to joining Los Alamos County.
Deputy Manager Steve Lynne said, “I’m very thankful that Joe D’Anna has built such a high caliber team and I think we are very fortunate to have them working for the county.”
Still, the County is striving to improve. D’Anna said for the first time the Finance Department submitted its popular annual financial report for Fiscal Year 2016 to the Government Finance Officers Association to be reviewed under its popular annual financial report award program.
D’Anna explained the popular annual financial report extracts financial information from the CAFR and put those extracts in a form that is easier to understand and more likely to be read by citizens.
Work on the annual audit begins after the end of a fiscal year, beginning in July and throughout the fall. The deadline to submit a financial report to the state auditor is Dec. 1, D’Anna said.
He explained the state auditor does not perform all audits, but will contract with independent public accounting firms. During an audit, a test of the County’s internal controls is conducted. D’Anna said these internal controls include the County’s processes for checks and balances as well as recording financial information.
Additionally, an audit will test individual financial transactions to make sure they were recorded appropriately.
“Ultimately, the auditors issue a report to express an opinion on the financial statements based on that audit,” D’Anna said. “The opinion is whether or not our financial statements are presented fairly in all material respects.”
Audits are a state requirement. “It helps us comply with state law requiring an audit,” D’Anna said.
Furthermore, “It helps assure Council and citizens that we’re safeguarding the public’s assets,” he said.
“Good audit results normally result in lower bond ratings and therefore lower costs of borrowing when we have bond issues,” D’Anna said.
To view the popular annual financial reports as well as the County’s comprehensive annual financial reports and budget documents, visit the County Finance Department’s webpage at http://www.losalamosnm.us/omb/Pages/BudgetsandReports.aspx
D’Anna is retiring at the end of July. Perraglio expressed how much D’Anna will be missed and how invaluable he has been to the County and the team in his more than 20 years working for the County.