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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.”