The Finance Committee and Selectmen met Wednesday with the Thomas Scanlon of Scanlon & Associates.
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Town officials were able to breath a sigh of relief on Wednesday after determining a $113,000 variance in the town accounts can't be corrected.
"Long story short, the errors are all pre-June 2012, which are unable to reconciled," Finance Committee member Lori-Anne Aubin summarized.
Relief over such an outstanding amount may sound odd, but the figure has bedeviled the Finance Committee in particular as members and the town's financial team have fruitlessly attempted to square the books over many months.
It's a problem that can only be fixed through a journal entry, they were advised by the town's auditing firm, Scanlon & Associates. As long as the current financial records are sound, the town has to wipe out errors that had occurred years before and pick a date to start fresh.
"I've been through hundreds of messes like this and that's how you get out of them," Thomas Scanlon told a joint meeting of the Finance Committee and Selectmen. "Pick a point in time and start."
The committee had been reluctant to simply erase the amount, and had been hoping that perhaps the money might still exist as a double booking somewhere.
But Scanlon thought it unlikely.
"If you keep trying to go back, you're just going to be chasing your tail and you're going to be here in three months saying the same things," he said.
Chairman Mark Denault agreed, thanking Scanlon for his clarifications and efforts.
"Once procedures and practices were repaired, these variances showed up," he said. "Now we're operating properly and maintaining the variance, which is a good thing."
The accounting problems had been become apparent more than a year ago; since then, accounting procedures had been instituted based in large part on a management review letter from Scanlon & Associates.
The variance has remained the same for the last seven months, which officials take as a good sign. But the town had not kept a cash book and when that was begun last July, the 2012 variance of $30,000 grew to $113,000, because of what the ledger showed at the end of 2013.
There was some thought it could have been one of the errors in accounting for a town truck purchase two years ago but that didn't pan out. There was also the issue of financial records that had been damaged during the flood in 2011.
The committee meet for more than two hours with the Selectmen last Friday in blur of numbers without resolving anything.
The town treasurer had been begun going back through bank statements trying find an answer but Scanlon said that only was proving what was already known.
Aubin said the treasurer had to stop digging. "At this point it's irrelevant and she's killing herself trying to find it and it's too many things."
Scanlon recommended the town file its free cash for certification now and make the journal entry at the end of the fiscal year, presuming the variance continues to be maintained.
"Whatever you do, you're going to be penalized on free cash," he said.