Flushing receives positive financial report for 2020

FLUSHING — After facing years of rising liability costs and a stagnant tax base, the City of Flushing’s financial situation appears to be improving.

At the Jan. 11 meeting, Flushing City Council received a favorable audit report from Gabridge & Company on the city’s 2019/2020 fiscal year. Joe Verlin, a principal with Gabridge & Company, told the council that the city experienced an increase in fund balancing and maintained a positive net position of $7.1 million. This means that the city’s assets and outflows of resources exceeded liabilities by over $7 million in the 2019/2020 fiscal year.

“The city has seen back-to-back years of increased net position, which means that you are turning the corner financially,” Verlin said. “We are seeing positive signs with the city’s finances.”

Verlin said that Flushing finished the 2019/2020 fiscal year with combined fund balances of $4.8 million, an increase of $570,058 from the prior year. Flushing’s unassigned fund balance for the general fund was $1.5 million, or approximately 34.4 percent of total general fund expenditures and transfers out.

“At 34.4 percent funded, you have about five months of funds left in the unassigned fund balance,” Verlin said. “It’s nice to have that type of wiggle room in that balance to weather financial storms.”

Verlin also reported that the city’s sewer, water, enterprise and governmental funds experienced positive cash flow in 2020.

During the 2019/2020 fiscal year, Flushing’s property tax revenue slightly increased from $2.5 million in 2019 to $2.6 million in 2020, due to a 4.1 percent increase in taxable value. General government and public safety expenses decreased in the city, and the city’s Net OPEB liability (retiree healthcare costs) also declined.

Mayor Pro Tem Edward Sullivan said that while the city still has work left to do with managing its retiree healthcare costs and legacy costs, Flushing’s financial forecast appears to be headed in the right direction.

“Credit should go to past councils that made plans to decrease OPEB liability and pension liability,” he said. “Hopefully, we can come up with more ways to take dramatic leaps in the future.”

Despite the financial progress made in 2020, Mayor Joseph Karlichek said that the city should brace itself for possible challenges in the 2021/2022 fiscal year, due to anticipated declines in statewide revenue sharing caused by the COVID- 19 pandemic.

“We know that there are additional funds from the state that should be coming now…but we should be ready for a negative economic impact down the road,” he said. “It usually takes a year or two down the line for those (effects) to develop.”

To view a complete report on Flushing’s 2019/2020 fiscal year, visit flushingcity.com and click on the public meetings tab on the homepage to view an agenda from the Jan. 11 city council meeting.