City’s finance team keeps the lights on, city running
It’s easy for Janet Watts to get lost in the world of city finances.
Ask her a question and one can almost see her brain lighting up and information spilling out like the paper tape on a desk calculator.
As finance director, she knows the City of Mustang’s finances like the back of her hand. She is constantly learning, too, reading up on national and state trends, watching the economy and making budget and sales tax projections.
Her work is very tedious, but she says she loves it.
A job handling numbers was her destiny.
Watts started her city government career in Mustang. From 1988 to 1994, she worked for the city and then left for Owasso for five years. She worked a small stint in the private sector before coming back to Mustang in August 2012.
City Manager Tim Rooney said Watts really understands the ins and outs of municipal budgeting and has the upmost respect for her. The two worked together at Owasso – her as assistant finance director and him as assistant city manager.
Recently, the city earned a prestigious award for its 2016 fiscal year audit – making it the 19th consecutive year to do so.
The city’s independent auditor concluded, based upon the audit, that there were no material weakness es identified or audit findings.
Watts said most cities don’t have their audits done on time. She serves on a state finance board related so she has insider knowledge on this.
In a time where the state is struggling with an almost $900 million budget hole, Watts said Mustang is being as efficient as it possibly can and holding its own.
“This is the cleanest budget the city has had in years.”
“I have never seen a city as transparent as we are. I couldn’t sleep well at night if we were not being accountable,” Watts said. As for the rest of her team standing behind their work, “The morale in this department has never been better.”
Watts said when she first started working for the city, Mustang was like a ghost town. Half the town was empty and the city couldn’t make payroll.
“It was two lane roads for both Mustang Road and 152.”
These days, Watts and her six-member finance department team have their hands full.
The finance staff consists of the city treasurer, utility bill coordinator, customer service clerk, court clerk, accounts payable clerk, staff accountant and then Watts as financial director.
Each person plays an important role, Watts said. The city treasurer is in charge of fund investments, CD’s, court and utility billing summaries. The utility bill coordinator does bill calculations, sends outs bills and cut-off notices.
The customer service clerk receives all money, set up new accounts and handles incoming calls.
The court clerk, who has been with the city since 1984, issues citations and handles court every Thursday. The accounts payable clerk is the back-up deputy clerk and handles all purchases, invoices, claims and P-card/credit card purchases and contractors. This clerk is also a back-up to the court clerk.
Two years ago, Watts said the city created a staff accountant position. This person handles every bank reconciliation, prepares sales tax reports and the monthly financial reports, enters item into the city’s general ledger and does big volume batches for the city’s concession stands at the ball fields.
Finally, Watts said her job is to create the budget, as well as update it and amend it as needed. She said by law, every decrease or increase must be approved by the council.
“The city manager does not have the authority to transfer from one fund to another,” Watts said.
All budget supplementals are her responsibility, as are projecting city revenues and managing the city’s expenditures, debt, city sales tax, bonds and grants.
“Every dime spent on grants has to be accounted for and I keep everything on spreadsheets.”
This is the case for numerous other parts for the city. Watts explained that bond funds have strict guidelines for certain percentages of the awarded money to be spent by a deadline.
A big part of her job, Watts said is the city’s audit. At any given time, she said she is often working on closing out the past audit and budget process, managing the current one and then planning on the next one.
But she doesn’t do it all alone when it comes to the entire process and making sure the city is running right. She said the city has an internal audit team of five employees that randomly selects an aspect of city government to look at more in-depth. They look at how the city handles its cash to make sure the appropriate steps are being taken. Then the city also has its external auditors that come in for two to three weeks of field work and controls to look over everything.
“It takes six months to prepare the audit and then from June 1 to mid-January to do the interim close.”
Watts said she is proud to work in Mustang and with her fellow city staff. “I didn’t grow up here but I feel like this is home.”
If anyone would like to know more about the city’s finances, Watts is always available.
“My office is open any time to anyone that wants to ask a question or find out more.” She can be contacted at 376-4521 or by email at [email protected]
Also, the city’s most recently approved audit is on the city’s website and can be found at www.cityofmustang.org.