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Arizona City of Surprise Gets to Keep Its AA Rating Despite 10 Years of Accounting Errors

Standard and Poor’s (S&P), one of the nation’s most well-known credit rating agencies, has informed Surprise it is affirming its “AA” credit rating. After a review, S&P cited a diversifying and strong local economy, new city management, low debt and ongoing corrections to past financial issues as reasons for affirming the high rating. S&P defines an AA rating as “a very strong capacity to meet financial commitments.”

This ignores the fact that the city of Surprise has (surprise!) suffered through a decade of multi-million dollar accounting errors and financial mismanagement.

Surprise finance officials say the news is a positive statement about the overall financial and economic health of the City. “S&P’s decision to affirm our AA rating is good news for Surprise taxpayers,” said Surprise Chief Financial Officer Scott McCarty. “This is one of the agency’s highest possible rankings, and the news is a positive checkpoint on our road to financial resiliency.”

Right. The same cannot be said of Surprise Mayor Lyn Truitt, who claimed more than $464,000 in mortgage, credit card and other debt when he filed for bankruptcy earlier this year.

Anyway, in FY 2010, Surprise had 33 prior period adjustments, compared to just one the year before and nine the year before that. The city found errors dating back to the year 2000 and stated that every financial statement category was affected. These errors had a $56.3 million liability impact related to the city’s sewer system alone and left the operating budget a little over $5 million in the hole.

Yeah… good luck with that.