The city of Pickerington recently received the equivalent of straight A's on a "financial health" report card issued by the state auditor's office.

In December, the Ohio Auditor's Office updated its annual "Financial Health Indicators" report for counties and cities.

According to the Auditor's Office, the report tool seeks to gauge the fiscal health of Ohio's 88 counties and 247 cities to help them "avoid a fiscal crisis."

Whereas the auditor's press release highlighted the financial stresses facing nine cities and one county for fiscal year 2016, Pickerington city officials were pleased to find the report showed that for the second consecutive year Pickerington received a "positive outlook" -- the highest mark possible -- in each of the report's 17 study areas.

"Pickerington is one of only 14 cities in the entire state of Ohio to get all A's on our most recent financial report card handed out by the state auditor," Pickerington City Manager Bill Vance said.

"This has everything to do with Pickerington's continuing economic development opportunities, as well as the management of city funds by Pickerington's mayor and (City) Council."

The 17 indicators in the report are a collection of financial information, percentages and ratios gathered from annual financial statements filed with the auditor's office by local governments, in addition to their audit reports.

The report grades municipalities on everything from financial accounting and income tax revenues, to how they manage debt and maintain assets such as vehicle fleets, roads and infrastructure.

Among the indicators city leaders identified as important to Pickerington's financial health outlook were its total general fund balance vs. its general fund reserves, or money in the city's "rainy day" fund.

The report stated that in 2016, Pickerington had an approximately $39.6 million budget but still had about $4.8 million left over in its reserve. The reserve marked an increase of more than $800,000 from the previous year.

"This indicator shows an annual increase of general fund balance (vs.) total revenues, which indicates that in the short term the impact of sudden revenue loss -- say a large business leaves Pickerington or a natural disaster happens like the flooding (last) summer -- may not significantly impact the operations of the city," said Chris Schornack, city finance director .

Another indicator noted Pickerington's general fund revenues exceeded its general fund expenses in 2016 by 61.35 percent.

According to the report, the gap between the city's general fund revenues and expense have grown each year since 2013,when revenues exceeded expenses by 56.8 percent.

In the area of the condition of capital assets, which help municipalities determine if they should repair or replace infrastructure and equipment, Pickerington received a positive outlook indicating its assets are not fully depreciated and have significant remaining useful life.

"This is the result of the city continuing to repave $1 million in streets annually, constructing new water and sewer lines and recently expanding the capacity of our utility plants," Schornack said.

Additionally, city officials pointed to the report's grading of the city on debt service vs. total revenues as a positive sign Pickerington is managing its money and expenses well.

Although debt went up from 5.48 percent of total revenues in 2015 to 6.7 percent in 2016, the Auditor's Office deemed Pickerington is well within the standards of reasonable debt accumulation.

"Fortunately for the city, we have a positive outlook as we continue to pay down the existing debt annually," Schornack said. "The city did need to issue debt for the Refugee Road widening project, but as you can see we are still under the 12 percent of budget ratio cautionary.

"This indicates that we still have funds available to meet any other capital or operating demands."

Schnornack said the report validates city policies and shows it continues to make strides in economic development.

He added he anticipates the city "will continue this trend into the future."

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