Clarksburg Facing $250K Budget Fiscal 2015 Deficit

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Finance Committee members Chairman Mark Denault, Lori-Anne Aubin and Rebecca Buck expressed continued frustration over the town's financial controls.

CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Town officials are mulling drastic cuts or a Proposition 2 1/2 override to fill a quarter-million dollar budget gap.

The Selectmen on Tuesday night voted to push off the annual town meeting until June 18 to give it more time to deal with the deficit.

Officials had begun the joint meeting with the Finance Committee on the assumption they had untapped revenue of $250,000 — enough to squeak by next year.

But they learned the figures, provided by the treasurer, were for a sewer enterprise account that likely can't be used, although they were going to verify that.

"We went from being a plus to [being short] $246,621.87," said Finance Committee Chairman Mark Denault, who was angry over being "misled." "That's what we need for cuts."

The revelation was a blow to the board and committee, which had just struck a deal with the school district to cut $35,000 (used for preschool tuition) from its budget rather than a larger figure.

The $35,000 cut is contingent upon voters approving a modular preschool on the school grounds that will be paid for by school choice and school stabilization funds. The proposed preschool is expected to be self-sustaining through tuition and grants after the first year.

But facing a quarter-million budget gap, the Finance Committee was again looking at slicing $98,000 from the school budget to bring the town's share of its budget to bare minimum school spending.

Also on the chopping block could be Chapter 90 road funds and a capital account planned for highway equipment. A new highway truck set as a separate borrowing article could also be cut.

"I'm just guessing at the number," said Denault. "Those were the two things we had put in for numbers. ... At this point now it's all in."

Taxpayers had been looking at a 40 cent increase in the property tax rate prior to the need for cuts. Denault said it would be up to town meeting to determine the next step.

"If the townspeople want to put it back and do an override that's on them, we can only present the numbers," he said.

Superintendent of Schools Jonathan Lev discusses the preschool proposal with selectman candidate William Schrade.

Finance Committee member Lori-Anne Aubin held out hope the town's auditors could suss out where some $1.4 million might be stashed in obsolete accounts.

"We do not have a reconciled balance sheet, our balance sheet should be indicative of everything and have the exact balance in there," she said. "We do not know what our numbers are on the balance sheet and we do not know if they are correct."

"If those [balance sheet] numbers don't wash, we're going to get whacked again," said committee member Rebecca Buck.

Certified public accountants Scanlon & Associates was expected to come in on May 28 to review accounts and the balance sheet.

"There's got to be money in there," Aubin said.

Denault expressed frustration getting financial figures with no supporting documentation over the past two years.

"We've asked for good numbers and we still cannot get them," he said.

A full audit, the first in several years, is scheduled for this summer. Scanlon will also review accounts and ensure the town's Schedule A (to certify free cash) is filed in a timely manner.

The town will also have to fill one of its financial positions after the town accountant resigned after obtaining another job with hours that conflicted with Clarksburg's.

Tags: Finance Committee,   fiscal 2015,   municipal finances,   town budget,   

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