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Accounting in Wine Country

By Richard S Arrow, RGS Finance Advisor

After wrapping up stints working as interim finance directors for the Cities of Ukiah and Cotati, I had the pleasure of taking on an assignment filling in as the interim Finance Director for the Town of Yountville. As a point of information, Yountville is situated between the City of Napa and St. Helena on beautiful Highway 29. Almost every clear morning on my way to work, I am afforded the luxury of observing a parade of hot air balloons lifting off from several locations close to the office. It is the most impressive and unusual commute I ever had.

The Town of Yountville is a tourist destination spot located in the heart of the Napa Valleys’ famous wine country. It consists of restaurants, hotels, wineries, and touristy retail business. The Town population is about 3000 residents. The three largest revenue sources for the town comprise of Transit Occupancy Tax, Sales Tax, and Property Tax. Nearly 58 percent of the general fund revenue is from the Transit Occupancy Tax.

Upon arriving, the town was in a transition phase within fiscal management. The former Finance Director was already gone and a seasoned Accounting Technician was on maternity leave. The Accounting Technician was filled by a temporary staffer. My task was to continue the daily fiscal activities of the town as well as managing the year-end closing the books for the year just ending. Additionally, the independent town auditors were in the planning and execution stages of the annual financial audit. Finally, the Town Manager was interested in implementing “Open Gov” – a software package that allows the public and internal customers to “point and click the way to fiscal heaven”. This package provides fiscal transparency to allow users to view financial and accounting detail of the town in a very visual, straightforward and uncomplicated way.

I think one of the challenging aspect of this assignment was to provide fiscal leadership to the finance staff, department heads, and Town Manager. One of my first tasks was to determine where we were with basic accounting functions such as bank reconciliation, monthly general ledger closings, accounting for fixed assets, debt service obligations etc. Significant time was needed to learn as quickly as possible the Town’s financial software package and accessing and navigating through the myriad of financial reports both used and not used.

Also within the first several weeks, a series of meetings were held with the Town’s independent auditor and starting the process of preparing the various “client prepared schedules” that was a necessary component of the Town’s responsibility within the context of the annual financial audit. Additionally, the Town charter provides that monthly financial reports and quarterly investment reports need to be prepared for Town Council. My job was to ensure that all required reporting was accomplished and delivered on a timely basis.

I have concluded my duties as the interim Finance Director and continuing with the Town on a limited basis helping the smooth transition for the recently hired permanent Finance Director. The Town’s CAFR was recently published and distributed with the coveted “Clean Opinion”. We have applied to the GFOA for the award of excellence in Financial Reporting.

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