Norwalk awarded for ‘excellence in financial reporting’

Norwalk Finance Director Bob Barron talks about the 2018-19 operating budget in April, in City Hall. At left is Board of Estimate and Taxation member James Page; at right, Director of Management and Budgets Lunda Paul Asmani. (File photo)

NORWALK, Conn. – This is a press release, presented in the format in which it was sent:

The City of Norwalk receives Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting 


Norwalk was awarded the Certificate of Achievement for its Fiscal Year 2017 reporting


(Norwalk, Conn.) – The City of Norwalk was awarded the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for its Fiscal Year 2017 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. The Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) annually awards select municipalities across the country with this highest form of recognition in governmental accounting and financial reporting. The City of Norwalk has received this recognition for the last 27 consecutive years.

“It is an honor to receive this prestigious award. We continue to proactively pursue this achievement as part of our commitment to clearly communicate Norwalk’s financial story to the public,” said Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling. “We have a great team who puts this report together every year. Thank you to Finance Director Robert Barron and his entire staff for the work they did to earn this recognition.”

The GFOA established the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting Program in 1945 to encourage and assist state and local governments to go beyond the minimum requirements of generally accepted accounting principles. Those that prepare comprehensive annual financial reports that evidence the spirit of transparency and full disclosure are recognized in achieving that goal. The aim of the program is not to assess the financial health of governments, but rather to ensure that users of their financial statements have the information they need to do so themselves.

The Certificate of Achievement is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting. According to GFOA, receiving this attainment represents a significant accomplishment by a government and its management. The Fiscal Year 2017 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report was judged by an impartial panel and was deemed to meet the high standards of the program, according to GFOA. Those standards include demonstrating a constructive spirit of full disclosure to clearly communicate the City’s financial story and motivate potential users and user groups to read the Report.

The Fiscal Year 2017 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report is available online at norwalkct.org.



A press release is an announcement drafted by an organization to publicize its news. NancyOnNorwalk takes no responsibility for the content of this press release.


Patrick Cooper June 8, 2018 at 9:27 am

Apparently, the inaugural effort on the part of our newly hired “communications” manager. After 26 prior successes, the 27th is somehow noteworthy.

Like the white fluffy bud on top of the dandelion – give even a wisp of air – the petals scatter into all but dust. Successful reporting – terrific. No context – but who pays attention to detail?

Next -up – where is the press release about 5 consecutive years of failing financial performance? No – Josh knows he’s expected to narrow his focus to the few shiny spots on the apple. No need to explain the bruises – or the worm.

PIBerman June 8, 2018 at 10:02 am

What’s needed is not good financial reporting but much more affordable City services. After 5 years in office our former Police Chief seems unable to respond to a stagnant Grand List, falling property values, influx of renters replacing exiting long time homeowners. Hiring Top Talent using Prof. Search and demanding City administrators do more with less resources is antipathetical to City Hall “governance”.
So we remain the most transient City in the County and even our City employees live elsewhere.

Even freshman business students know there’s a world of difference between financial reporting and capable management. Claiming the former proves the latter is inappropriate.

Rick June 8, 2018 at 9:29 pm

GFOA award programs are intended solely to (i) recognize governments’ efforts to make information available to the public; and (ii) encourage those entities to implement process improvements in the areas of financial reporting, accounting, or budgeting. GFOA does not evaluate or assess, and makes no guarantees, representations, or warranties regarding, the accuracy or adequacy of the financial information made available by award recipients or the financial solvency or soundness of any government as part of the award programs. Receipt of a GFOA award is not, and may not be inferred or assumed to be, GFOA’s endorsement, evaluation or approval of a recipient’s financial information or practices beyond what is listed in GFOA’s evaluation criteria for each award. GFOA award program applicants and recipients, other interested parties, and members of the general public always must rely on their own independent judgment to determine the accuracy, adequacy, or sufficiency of the financial information presented by governments (regardless of whether they are GFOA award recipients).

Josh needs to include the fine print, if was hired to be accurate wonder how he is going to spin the crime rate in Norwalk its gone up not down like the rest of the country has.

Lisa Biagiarelli June 9, 2018 at 4:07 pm

Please allow me to offer a few observations in light of this article and the comments herein, as well as many other comments that have been made about the department of finance over the course of many months.

This award has always been publicized through press releases issued by the mayor’s office, because it is good news -so that’s nothing new. The award is given by outside evaluators to acknowledge that city officials are providing complete, accessible, timely, relevant and accurate information about the city’s financial state, so that stakeholders, including taxpayers, residents, bond rating agencies and others can evaluate fairly. For those who demand “transparency” that’s what this is about.

When I came to work here 18 years ago the city of Norwalk had delinquent accounts owing literally millions of dollars in back taxes going back seven, eight, nine years or more. We now have tax sales every two years and our current sale has only a handful of properties that each owe in excess of $100,000. There isn’t another “big city” in CT that can make that claim and / or that has a current tax collection rate of 99%. And we are doing it in house, without hiring outside attorneys who tack on extra fees to be borne by taxpayers who are already struggling to pay. We are doing it with a staff of 8, which is the same number of people we had in the office 18 years ago. More work, better performance, measurable results – efficiency, no? Isn’t this what the commenters ask for? The tax collector’s office is part of this department of finance that is everyone’s favorite whipping target.

The information technology department, which has reported to the director of finance since Alex Knopp was mayor and is considered part of finance, is responsible for,among many things, deployment, maintenance, and management of all the communication equipment (computers, phones, etc) in all city departments, including public safety (police, fire) and the libraries. That in itself is an amazing amount of responsibility. Their staff have taken initiatives that have saved literally tens of thousands of dollars – for example, by doing an analysis of all the city of Norwalk telephone extensions, and eliminating those that nobody was using any longer. They have staff members who provide applications that help other departments do things like, for example, administer state and local tax relief programs that provide tax credits to more than 1,300 Norwalk households with elderly and disabled residents. The director of IT deals with myraid other division heads, policy makers, committees, task forces, internal and external stakeholders, does it with grace, and makes it look easy. The amount of money they have saved over the years, the services this department provides and manages, and the changes that they have had to deal with as a result of new technology and public demands, are astronomical, and few people know about it because they go about their business without a lot of fanfare.

Our purchasing department, part of the finance department, has saved tens of thousands of dollars by procuring things like fuel and other products through competitive bidding, cooperative purchasing and other initiatives such as tagging onto state contract pricing. We’ve avoided scandals that have occurred in some other towns where there have been problems with bid rigging, “pay to play”, discriminatory policies, employees stealing equipment or using city equipment for personal use, and other issues – why? Because we follow the rules and do things the right way, because we are good stewards of the resources in our care.

Our finance department, through the director and the comptroller, have prepared dozens of successful bond presentations that have allowed our city to maintain our AAA bond rating through a recession and beyond. What this means is that we can borrow money at the cheapest possible rates so that policy makers have the funding for projects and initiatives they feel are important (such as major school improvements, roads, new fire and police headquarters, sewer plant upgrades, and so on). Just like an individual, a municipality with good credit can borrow more cheaply. This saves every taxpayer money, just as having a high tax collection rate saves every taxpayer money. The comptroller and director of finance also have refinanced many bond issues over the years, further saving hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars.

The comptroller – part of the finance department – implemented an automated payroll system that requires city employees to “punch” in and out at a time clock. The finance department was responsible for the rollout and has been responsible for the maintenance of this system from day one. Not human resources – finance. Don’t you think that has resulted in more accountability and more accurate recordkeeping of city payroll? Our department did this.

You may recall that last year, when there was no state budget until the fall , Norwalk was nonetheless able to send tax bills out on time and didn’t have to subject our taxpayers to delayed or supplementary billings to “make up” the difference, as was done in many other CT municipalities – why? Because our finance department was on top of things and was able to work with policy makers to craft a budget that didn’t depend on state aid as a make or break element.

Did you know Norwalk is the only municipality in CT that bills its sewer use in such a way that we don’t have to send a separate bill for it or file separate liens if the charges go unpaid? Because we set it up that way as an efficiency. And our sewer collection rate is probably among the highest in the state because of it. All the sewer billing and collection work is done by members of the city the finance department and was taken on by us when the WPCA was set up years ago.

Our budget office, under the direction of the director of finance, puts together budget books with an incredible amount of detail showing exactly where revenue comes from and exactly how it is being spent. It’s all online and accessible. There are no secrets. This is part of what the GFOA award was about.

Regardless of what you think about the mayor’s proposed management reorganization, the analysis prepared and presented by the director of finance to provide decision makers with information on the various proposals is almost mind boggling in its detail, clarity and completeness. This was done by the director in a relatively short amount of time, and is testament to this individual’s ability to analyze data, break down a complex proposal or idea into parts, and lay it out so that others have the information they need to make decisions. This is just another example of the kinds of things we do.

We are not policy makers. We are administrators. Our functions are administrative and ministerial. We are professional people with specific areas of expertise. We provide tremendous value to the city. I wonder if we make it look too easy and if some people take it for granted now, or if some have forgotten how things used to be.

What’s your gripe that every time the finance department is mentioned some of you come down on us? Even a benign press release about a national award generates negativity.

If your gripe is that your taxes are too high, taxes are driven in part by spending, so next year, when the board of estimate and taxation has a public hearing on the proposed budget that will drive your future taxes, please come and make your feeling known to them. If you think that more or less should be spent on some particular area or service, please again, make your feelings known to those who make the policy. If you think that our fund balance is too high, ask the bond rating agencies what they think – impartial outsiders, not “cronies,” but names like Fitch, S&P, Moody’s – ask them what they think. Ask the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (coincidentally based in Norwalk), a national arbiter of – well, just what their name says – governmental accounting standards.

If any of these are your issues, you’re barking up the wrong tree by constantly attacking the finance department. I admit, there are probably a few folks here or there within our ranks who could be doing a better job, as is the case in most organizations. But by and large, we are professionals; we are highly regarded by our peers in the municipal finance community; we work hard, we are not ego driven, we are good stewards, we are constantly looking for better ways to do things, to save money, and to best serve all of you.

Rick June 10, 2018 at 12:12 am

If we are saving that much money why cant afford a better legal staff?

No need to to pick this all apart but when the sewage pumping stations in Rowyaton have better reception than the police dept,as it is they better chance with smoke signals since WWII you may want to revisit some of your accolades.

The one thing Norwalk can’t buy is trust, so doubting most of what you just said is an obvious to those who have problems with transparency and the way the city is run.

Well written tho shame you missed the point.

maybe not all administrators are as good as you consider that a compliment its more than us poor slugs who are targeted by city hall just got from you.

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