On Monday, November 11, The Buffalo News published an article covering the "release" of the City of Buffalo’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2019.
The article was headlined "Buffalo closes last year in the black, expects casino funds to start rolling in." It emphasized two positive-sounding developments – closing out the year with a "surplus," and an increase of $900,000 in "reserves" from the previous year.
Claims like these are worthy of scrutiny, given the fungibility of government funds accounting and the use and abuse of similar references in other places, including Chicago. To scrutinize them, however, you need the actual Comprehensive Annual Financial Report referred to in that Buffalo News article.
By the end of the day yesterday, November 12, the actual report had yet to appear at the City of Buffalo’s website. I called the city comptroller’s office and asked if the report was available. I was told it had been distributed in print form, and the city had yet to put it on its website. I asked for a pdf version of the document, and was told it would be on the agenda "first thing in the morning" the next day (today, November 13).
At the end of the day today, I have yet to receive the report, nor have I received a response to an email and a voice message I left earlier in the day.
This isn’t just an isolated story. It has wider implications.
Consider how publicly-traded firms "release" their annual (and quarterly) annual financial reports. These reports are required to be filed with the SEC, and they are released (and posted to the Internet) when they are released.
No such mechanism exists for state and local governments in the United States.