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Glen Ellyn parks millions over capital budget
But auditor says discrepancy could be byproduct of accounting methods
By Marco Santana | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 6/16/2010 12:00 AM

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An independent auditor praised the Glen Ellyn Park District on Tuesday for its financial reporting as he presented a report that showed the district had come in $4 million over its budgeted amount in capital expenditures last year.

However, auditor and certified public accountant Ron Amen of Warrenville-based Lauterbach & Amen said that it was important to understand the role of his firm and that the timing of the audit might explain the discrepancies.

"Our job is to educate our clients as to what an audit is designed to do," he said. "Our job isn't to look for fraud. Is it my job to talk about the health and financial stability of the park district? Absolutely not."

Amen said his firm instead looked at accounting numbers for 2009 to make sure they are accurate. But some commissioners wanted a more detailed explanation of some of the discrepancies in the 145-page report even after a revised budget was passed in February.

For example, capital expenditures, which had originally been budgeted at $600,000, ended up at $4.6 million. This was up from the revised budget in February, which had the number at $2.5 million.

Amen said two factors might have contributed to the discrepancy: the audit is based on December figures and any payments that have been made since then would not be reflected on the audit.

Also, the audit and budget used two different accounting methods that could have thrown off the numbers. The audit used accrual method, which posts transactions on the date an agreement of a transaction is made, while the budget used the cash method, which does not post a transaction until actual money is received.

The audit began in December with Amen and his colleagues meeting with park district staff. They then did preliminary field work in January before looking at financial data in March. They then prepared a draft of the audit March 26.

A 10-year trend report included in the audit showed that the district's debt since 2001 has more than tripled, surpassing $18 million last year. In 2009, the district borrowed $4 million in non-referendum bonds to help pay for Ackerman Sports and Fitness Center, the state-of-the-art recreation center whose price tag ended up being around $11.5 million after taxpayers had approved a $7.4 million facility.

Commissioner Ron Aubrey said looking at the debt numbers alone could be misleading because it fails to take into account an "aggressive and prudent" payment schedule taken by the district.

"By 2013, we're going to have 65 percent of Ackerman paid for," he said. "It's very prudent. We have got to be careful when looking at one side of our debt liability versus the assets that we have brought to the community."

Commissioner Jay Kinzler responded, saying he wasn't sure the business model for Ackerman was sustainable.

But Board President Ed Hess reined in the discussion and made sure the audit remained the focus. He said the audit report and what it says about the district's finances would be part of the discussion at a future board meeting.

"Let's try to get this information and figure out how we can use it," he said. "That's the whole idea of having this is to have this for our benefit and make sure we're financially healthy."

Budget: District's debt has more than tripled since 2001