LAKEWOOD, Ohio — A triple crown of awards and distinctions was recently presented to Lakewood’s Finance Department.
Not only did the city receive the Ohio Auditor of State’s Award with Distinction for its financial reporting — which only 3 percent of Buckeye State governments can boast — but the department for the first time since 2007 earned a Distinguished Budget Presentation Award from the Government Finance Officers Association.
“When the state auditor comes out to audit the books, they’re usually here January to June looking at your financial records,” Lakewood Finance Director Peter M. Rancatore Jr. said.
“If you don’t have any type of findings or remarks or anything dealing with reconciliations, you could be eligible for the award.”
Lakewood was also featured in the August 2021 edition of Government Finance Review for its budget process.
“This is a validation of the incredible work our finance team does at city hall and an affirmation of how seriously we all take the stewardship of precious public funds,” Mayor Meghan George said.
“My administration makes stewardship of tax dollars a top priority. I see fiscal responsibility and transparency as key pillars for how Lakewood must operate.”
Regarding the Ohio Auditor of State’s Award with Distinction, it’s selectively presented to the few government entities that meet the auditor’s stringent financial reporting and record-keeping criteria.
“This award is not easy to come by,” George said. “The Ohio auditor is responsible for auditing more than 6,000 state and local government agencies, but Lakewood is one of only 19 public entities to receive this award in 2021.
“Those who receive the awards must meet a series of strict criteria to earn a ‘clean’ audit report. This is a high bar that requires the utmost professionalism in financial reporting and operational performance.”
City Council President Dan O’Malley added, “This award affirms that the city exercises great stewardship of our residents’ tax dollars.
“I’m very proud that the auditor of state has recognized our excellent financial practices and records transparency. Everyone at city hall, and in particular our finance department, should be commended.”
It’s also noteworthy that the auditor of state rated Lakewood with its highest transparency rating of four “STarS” as part of its review that analyzes how the city responds to public records requests.
“That’s the kind of a transparency review auditors favor,” Rancatore said. “We got the highest rating. When I say transparency, it deals with public record requests.
“We have an elaborate system they go through, and our law department is very on point. It’s the best system I’ve ever seen. I know the mayor worked on that as a councilwoman, along with (Council-at-Large Representative) Tristan Rader.”
The finance director also made it a point to credit the city’s administrative finance team — Assistant Finance Director Keith Schuster, Jessica Eddy, Kim Deyarmin, Paul Namitka, Irene Drazen and John Hribar — for their hard work regarding budget preparation and financial report compilation.
“Any great maestro relies on great musicians in the orchestra to make it all happen,” Rancatore said. “That’s what I got here.”
The mayor thanked the finance department for its efforts, which have a direct effect on the city’s bottom line.
“Our city’s bond rating benefits from this high level of performance, and that, in turn, lowers the interest rates we pay when we need to issue bonds for capital needs, infrastructure or other costs,” George said.
Analogous to a sports team that just won a championship, Rancatore said his department took a moment to celebrate before getting back to work.
“We’re working on the next report,” Rancatore said. “That’s all we can do. You’re only as good as your next one.”
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