The Finance Committee and Selectmen held a joint meeting on Tuesday to discuss the budget and financial issues.
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — The Selectmen have decided to pursue an audit of the past year's finances.
The decision came during a joint meeting of the Selectmen and Finance Committee on Tuesday night after committee members indicated they could not support wiping more than $113,000 off the town's books to fix an apparent accounting error.
Scanlon & Associates had identified a variance of $39,233 between the treasurer's records and the general ledger, with the ledger being higher, for fiscal 2012. They determined the total variance was more than $50,000 because of incorrect end-of-year closures.
"We agreed that if the variance stayed at $56,000, that's the variance he came up with, a journal entry would fix that," Finance Committee Chairman Mark Denault said. "It hasn't stayed that. It's stayed at $113,000. It's grown $80,000."
Since the end of fiscal 2013, the difference between the cash book and the bank account has remained steady at $113,071.91. Town officials believe the continuity is the result of financial procedures put in place last year, including requiring reconciliation of accounts between the treasurer and accountant.
But Finance Committee members voiced concerns that budgeting would again be challenged by a lack of solid figures.
"It is unacceptable that our town cash number changed by that much money in one month," Lori-Anne Aubin said. "If we do that entry we're essentially saying it didn't happen."
Fellow committee member Rebecca Buck questioned whether the problems that resulted in the different figures had actually been fixed.
It is believed the variance could be caused by one or more bills that were paid but not properly documented. Denault thought it also could be an account posted wrong.
"It could be $80 grand that could be found," he said.
Town Accountant Christa Marsh said Thomas Scanlon of Scanlon & Associates did not think that probable.
"His theory is we're not going to find it and if we find it, it will be an expense that was not booked," she said.
Aubin, however, said she would support using funds in the committee's reserve account to pay for an audit for fiscal 2013.
"How are we going to stop it if we don't find out?" asked Selectmen Chairwoman Lily Kuzia in seconding Selectman Jeffrey Levanos' motion to proceed. Levanos said they would also look into an police investigation into the matter ordered last year.
Marsh was directed to contact Scanlon and first determine what the town still owed the company for its most recent review and how much an audit would cost.
Officials also spoke with School Superintendent Jonathan Lev to broach the possibility of using school funds or making cuts to relieve the town side of the budget.
"We started finding problems last year and I don't know if it's going to get any better," said Denault. "It's almost becoming impossible to run."
Lev told the joint meeting that the nearly $120,000 in school-choice funds were being used to maintain programs that could otherwise be cut.
"It's there to make up what the budget doesn't," Lev said, noting the use of school-choice funds is limited by the state to educational needs.
The school also has to ensure that it maintains state-mandated foundation level spending, about $594,000. Combined with estimated Chapter 70 state aid of $1.769 (up $5,000 from this year) the budget comes in at about $2.4 million.
"We're within a few thousand dollars of minimum spending," said Lev. "Last year, we were able to return $10,000 [to the town]."
Lev said the superintendency union is in talks with Rowe, currently part of the Mohawk School System. If it joins, Clarksburg's administration costs would drop from 40 percent to 30 percent.
As for the school's stabilization fund, use of that for any spending would be determined by two-thirds of voters at town meeting, he said.
However, town meeting forcefully rejected requests to use the account for town capital needs several years ago. The stabilization fund has long been seen as a preparation for a new or renovated school.
Committee members also questioned the proposal for a preschool in terms of cost and needed investment.
"I think it's important, I think it's a good investment in our children, but at some point the cost outweighs the benefit," said Denault.
Lev said there appeared to be a lot of support and school officials were looking at funding options and ways to make the program self-sustaining.
"We will do whatever we can. I do know where you're at," said Lev. "I do hope we don't have to cut any programs we have."
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