PETERSBURG, VA (WWBT) -
Petersburg may finally be getting a handle on its finances. Early estimates show for the first time in years, the city could end the 2017 budget year with a surplus rather than a deficit — with the city expecting to see $3 million in unused funds. But those millions of dollars won’t mean extra money in the bank.
City leaders say it is too early to start saving when there are months of unpaid bills and years of deficits that have to be addressed.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” said Petersburg Mayor Sam Parham.
He is relieved that for the first time in years, the city is expecting a $3 million surplus for the end of the fiscal year.
“Do you think Council could have done that without the Robert Bobb Group?” NBC 12 asked.
“No. A small locality like Petersburg, we didn’t have that type of staff to do that in-depth dive into the finances that was [sic] necessary,” Parham responded.
The work began before the turnaround agency got on board. Former Acting City Manager Dironna Belton implemented pay cuts for city workers last year. Then came the Robert Bobb Group, which recommended cutting the budget even more.
“All new spending. We were holding it very, very tightly. So tightly, that literally every expenditure, I had to approve,” said Nelsie Birch with the Robert Bobb Group.
It meant vacant jobs were never filled. Now, there is an expected surplus.
“I would call it historic,” Birch said.
However, the city probably will not be able to put that $3 million into a rainy day fund, and it probably will not be used for future projects either.
“The city currently doesn’t have a fund balance. It’s in a negative position. Any surpluses that we recognize would go towards essentially paying that back to get us back to where we have a positive fund balance,” Birch added.
“Going forward, how do we ensure that were able to stay within budget?” NBC 12 asked.
“Now that we know, we can move forward and keep from making mistakes of the past. I think this is the first council to take this deep of a dive. We’ve had more budget work session I think ever,” Parham said.
On Wednesday, the city held interviews for an internal auditor. Leaders want someone to come in and take a close look at Petersburg’s finances in the future to make sure the progress leaders have made so continues in the years to come.
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