Message from Town Administrator Bob Markel
The Department of Revenue has always discouraged the use of free cash to balance the budget. Bond rating agencies do the same, and the low bond rating for the Town reflects, in part, the lavish use of free cash to fund the operating budget. However, this is not illegal; it is simply unsound financial policy.
The amount of free cash available changes yearly, and it is not predictable. Free cash is considered one-time revenue, and the Department of Revenues recommends that it used to augment the Stabilization Fund (reserves) or for one-time purchases like capital items.
Audit firms do not do a thorough job of auditing the books (unfortunately). They come and test various areas of the town’s finances to see if there are problems, but some problems are not caught and can persist for years. They tell you up front that they cannot do a thorough audit for the relatively modest amount they charge. The DOR representative at today’s meeting called the standard municipal audit a “hit and run” audit. Still, some firms are more reputable and more competent than others. I cannot name names in this message, but there are several firms that I would never hire.
Recommendation: The Selectboard should create an Audit Committee of knowledgeable citizens who will have two responsibilities: 1) Bid the audit contract every three years, and hire an independent auditor; and 2) Receive the annual audit and do a public review of the findings and the management letter. Municipal auditors are typically hired by the Town Administrator, Town Accountant or Finance Director. This is an inherent conflict of interest since town officials who do the hiring are the ones whose work is being audited. Hiring and receiving the audit should be an arm’s length transaction from the Town’s financial team.
The Department of Revenue oversees 351 cities and towns in the Commonwealth. They accept data provided by the Town Accountant, the Treasurer/Collector and the Assessors. They often question the data, but they are not always able to verify if data submitted on the Tax Recap or Schedule A are accurate. The DOR does not have access to the town’s accounting system. For example, the DOR was in Templeton today to question whether the Town has properly reported debt obligations on the DE-1 section of Schedule A. Some debt is paid from general revenue within the town budget and some debt is paid through debt exclusion. There is a correct way to report these two types of debt on Schedule A. The DOR representatives checked to see if the Town reported the data correctly, but they are limited in their ability to verify the accuracy of the data.
The long term solution to Templeton’s financial problems is to hire a professional Town Administrator who will put in place a competent financial management team – Accountant, Treasurer, Collector and Assessors. The Selectmen and Advisory Board have the responsibly to oversee the T.A. and the financial team on their management of the Town’s finances. To complement the BoS and Advisory Board, the Audit Committee should retain a reputable accounting firm to conduct an annual audit with the results made public.
Interim Town Administrator
Interim Town Administrator
I believe there should be more of this on the Templeton face Book page and less individual photos, updates and the like. It is one more tool to make available to any and all, valuable public information on things such as budget, board and committee make up and schedules.
my opinion and posted by Jeff Bennett