Tom Scanlon of Scanlon & Associates gave a presentation on his company's audit of the city's fiscal 2010 finances at Monday's Finance Committee meeting. Present were committee member Alan Marden, left, Chairman Michael Bloom and Mayor Richard Alcombright.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city's auditor is recommending it look into creating a financial director to provide stability and continuity over North Adams' financial structure.
The advice wasn't part of the 19 written recommendations submitted by Scanlon & Associates as part of the firm's audit for fiscal 2010, but Tom Scanlon suggested such a position might benefit the city during his audit presentation to the Finance Committee on Monday afternoon.
The complexity of federal and state laws and grant requirements, the development of a rapport with the state Department of Revenue and a sense of continuity with auditors, financial authorities and municipal staff has led municipalities of North Adams' size to invest in a financial chief, he said.
Scanlon went over the 19 deficiencies identified by the audit and suggested the city research getting a finance director.
"I know it's tough to put that position in and fund it, but it adds stability to the financial picture," continued Scanlon, adding that high staff turnover can affect bonding and other funding matters. "You want to have public confidence that when a taxpayer walks in a door and pays their real estate bill it's being accounted for correctly."
Mayor Richard Alcombright said different positions within the City Hall have taken on some of the duties of a director depending on their backgrounds and experience. After taking office, the mayor, a banker, created a finance team of certain department heads, including the auditor, treasurer and assessor, but much of the role has landed on business manager Nancy Ziter.
"This city is no less complex than Springfield or Boston ... We do all the same things those municipalities do but our staffing is incredibly low," said the mayor. "We have to startng thinking of ways of keeping people in City Hall, keeping them in these positions."
The city will begin interviewing for a new administrative officer this week and may look more toward someone with human service or financial acumen, he said, rather than law experience as in the past.
Scanlon said his suggestion wasn't meant to disparage the city's current staff. "I can't say enough about the staff," he said, adding they had done a good job in managing the city's finances and that the finance records were "free of material misstatement."
The firm listed 19 deficiencies it found, which were supplied to the committee along with the administration's responses. The mayor related some of the problems to the Finance Committee at its last meeting. They include the need for better internal controls, too much reliance on reserves, the need to account for future liabilities (because of a change in state law), better purchase controls, capitalization planning, long-term strategic financial planning, oversight of related accounts, investing, reviewing trust and revolving accounts, and implementing fiscal policies.
The mayor said the city is in the process of implementing new controls and reporting measures but some deficiencies may require time or software investment.
Scanlon & Associates also "tested" (or single audited) the city's compliance in expending five federal grants and found no errors that would require reporting to the governement.
The company did not look back beyond fiscal 2010, which ended June 30, 2010, to compare results; however, it has been contracted to audit fiscal 2011 and 2012.
The City Council will be provided with the three documents — the audit, the single audit and the management letter and reply — at Tuesday's meeting. All three documents can be found on our Scribd site and on the sidebar.
In attendance were committee members Chairman Michael Bloom and Alan Marden; David Bond was absent. Also in attendance were Councilors Marie Harpin, Lisa Blackmer and David Lamarre, Business Manager Nancy Ziter and Assessor Ross Vivori.