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Independent audit views city in favorable light
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For the third consecutive year, the city of Ceres has received the highest audit rating possible.

An unqualified audit means the city's accounting is accurate, honest and professional and has tight internal control over taxpayer money.

The audit of city finance was performed by JJACPA, Inc. of Dublin. It showed that the city dealt with $134.96 million for the 2012-13 fiscal year. The audit included that of Measure H, the half-cent sales tax measure generated $2.4 million for public safety for the fiscal year.

"I think this is a multi-week process to work with the auditors but getting the finances to a point where the auditors give you a high rating requires an excellent, high-quality staff," said Acting City Manager Art deWerk. He added that the city Finance Department is "made up of a group of unheralded professionals."

Deputy Finance Director Suzanne Dean and Finance Director Sheila Cumberland are leaders of the nine-woman Finance Department. All but one have bachelor's degrees.

"Four of us have accounting degrees," said Dean, "so the four with accounting degrees, we do a lot of extra work so that it makes everything go more smoothly. We've reduced our number of journal entries down from about 800 down to about 600 and they're more routine. We're not constantly fixing things."

She said the women take great pride in their work and "do an excellent job."

Other staff members are Andrea Magdaleno, who handles payroll, Shonna Wilson, who is in payroll and also assists in business licensing; Olga Mendoza handles revenue and is a Customer Service Supervisor; Leticia Diaz, who is an accountant; Alondra Rodriguez, who is in accounts payable; and Robin Kloepfer, Samantha De Jesus and Cristina Aguilar, who are all in utilities. Mary Fenton, a 46-year employee of the city, is the executive secretary of the Finance Department.

"We have an audit process that is now very smooth and streamlined and it's helped this city a lot," said Dean.

Mayor Chris Vierra said while the council probably takes the city Finance Department for granted, he offered up his appreciation.