COVINGTON, Ky. – When it comes to fascinating reading, Covington’s Annual Comprehensive Financial Report ranks alongside your third cousin’s thesis on bacteria growth in caves and “Pi: The First 30,000 Digits.”
People who read ACFR (pronounced somewhat like “aquifer”) tend to be accountants, auditors, financial advisers, investors, creditors, and debt managers – numbers-oriented people who not only speak their own language but also scrutinize to fine levels every numeral, detail, and column.
But national experts say Covington goes out of its way to present its ACFR in a way that’s transparent, authoritative, and clear.
In fact, Covington’s 177-page report for the 2021-22 fiscal year, which can be found at 2021-22 ACFR, is so thorough and so easy to read that – for the 30th time in 31 years – the City has received the largest professional organization’s highest honor. Or, more technically speaking, the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada, or GFOA.
This “is the highest form of recognition in the area of government account and financial reporting, and its attainment represents a significant accomplishment by a government and its management,” according to the GFOA.
Covington Finance Director Steve Webb praised his staff for the award.
“I expect nothing less than to win this certification every year, but it’s still cause to celebrate because it means that an impartial, outside panel of experts respects our attention to detail and transparency,” Webb said.
But when it comes to transparency in financial reporting, Covington’s Finance Department takes an additional step.
Beginning a year ago, it began writing a greatly condensed, accessible version of the ACFR specifically for non-finance professionals – i.e. “average” citizens – that’s called the Popular Annual Financial Report. It includes graphics detailing how the City’s revenue streams are generated and spent, a comparison of actual spending vs. proposed spending, definitions of fund balances, key takeaways from the just-ended fiscal year, and a breakdown of the current fiscal year’s budget.
As Webb said when unveiling Covington’s first PAFR, “I wanted to have a financial report that is consumable to citizens and stakeholders who are not finance professionals. The whole goal of ‘transparency’ falls apart if the information isn’t easy to understand, so that’s what we focused on doing.”
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