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City of Surprise's finances on the mend

Things are looking up financially for the City of Surprise.

In March of 2012, an audit revealed the city had misplaced $73 million over a period of 10 years, causing the city to dip into their savings.

"Almost a year ago, the city's auditors and accountants detected 'missteps' in the budget from the past decade. They were forced to dip into their rainy fund that was 'knocked nearly to zero,'" said Surprise City Manager Chris Hillman.

But now the city's money problems are improving. Hillman explained the city's efforts to reduce the debt.

"The city council made an immediate policy direction that they wanted a fully [re]funded reserve, which is, by policy, $13 million...They wanted that filled and completed within 24 months, so the city has set out on a course this past year to accomplish that."

Hillman said the Surprise City Council has made conscious efforts in replacing these funds by reducing expenses. They have cut 34 employee positions and placed some capital projects on hold. However, the city was able to do this without impacting services to residents or raising taxes and fees.

This week, the revenue the city anticipated for this fiscal year is above what was expected: from $500,000 to $1.7 million. They are hopeful for a budget surplus, which will help replace more of the money to be put in the reserve.

"We're cautiously optimistic that things are progressing well, and even a little ahead of schedule at this point," said Hillman.

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