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Surprise's finances on mend after $73M audit hit

It hasn't been easy, but finances are bouncing back in the City of Surprise after a 2012 audit found a big mess in the city's accounts.

The audit revealed that $73 million was displaced over a decade in which the city was expanding rapidly.

"That left our general fund with less than $1 million in its reserve balance, or our 'rainy day' fund," said Surprise City Manager Chris Hillman.

In order to build the city's reserve fund back up, Hillman said the city had to make some sacrifices.

"We had to lay off 19 people, but we cut a total of 33 positions," he said. "We downgraded another 19 management positions and we also cut another $1.5 million in cutting our materials and supplies expenses."

Hillman said Surprise is anticipating to have a fully-restored rainy day fund by late June and expects to have a surplus next year. Despite that, the city doesn't plan on making anymore spending mistakes.

"Our simple mantra is: We're not going to spend money we don't know we have yet," he said. "Our projections are looking positive and we want to continue on our conservative approach just to help ensure that the city's financial security has been able to be achieved."

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About the Author


Martha is the traffic controller in the KTAR newsroom. Her full time role is that of Assignment and Breaking News Editor of KTAR News. She oversees daily Breaking News planning and over-the air execution, and puts together the elements that make it happen. She gathers and distributes daily news assignments to reporters and editors. She also reports on a daily basis, anchors news afternoons 1-2p and fills in as anchor occasionally during other time slots. She began working at KTAR in the winter of 2012 as Desk Editor and was promoted to oversee Assignments and Breaking News in 2014. During that time, she received two awards as a journalist. The first was the 2013 APTRA Awards, where she took home 2nd place for Best Serious Future in the "Recycled Orchestra." The second was a 2014 Edward R. Murrow Award for her collaboration in KTAR's Voice for a Better Arizona Series: Immigration - seeking solutions. In her piece, Martha profiled two Arizona sisters looking for the DREAM. Martha was born in Mazatlan, Mexico. She moved to Arizona in 1996 with her parents and younger sister and has lived here since. She attended Barry Goldwater High School in Phoenix and graduated from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Arizona State University in Tempe. Prior to working at KTAR news she worked in news and production at Univision Arizona in Phoenix. She also supervised the marketing, catering and public relations department at Hotel Araiza, 5-star hotel in Mexicali, Mexico. She has also been a personal trainer and aerobics instructor. When she isn't in the newsroom or behind the microphone Martha is an avid gym-goer and marathoner. She trains for two races a year and enjoys taking group exercise classes, such as kickboxing, indoor cycling and weight lifting. Martha is married and lives in Surprise, AZ with 2 dogs, Tasha and Elsa, and a cat, Sammy.

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