Clarksburg Enters New Fiscal Year With Optimism

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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The Finance Committee and Selectmen met Tuesday to sign off on end-of-year transfers.

CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Town officials are hoping that the coming year will find their fiscal house in order.

After a rocky period that's seen budget cuts, penalties on its free cash and fluctuating figures, the Selectmen and Finance Committee are moving into fiscal 2015 with greater confidence in the town's financial numbers.

"If the numbers are correct we should be good," said Finance Committee Chairman Mark Denault on Tuesday. "I'm optimistic and I don't even know why.
"It's been a long two years."

The town has been working to get procedures in place to better track revenue and bills using new software, and in reconciling the town's books between the treasurer/tax collector and accountant.

The addition of new Town Accountant David Fierro Jr. and the hiring of a new town administrator after many rudderless months informed the optimism of Denault and the others.

Keeping town employees on track regarding finances will be a major element when Carl McKinney, a former selectman, takes the reins in August.

Town meeting's adoption of a $38,000 salary for the post fell short of the $39,500 offered by the board, prompting McKinney's later start date. However, that hasn't stopped the longtime Clarksburg resident from appearing at the most recent meetings to get up to date.

The Finance Committee expects to meet in August to confirm account fund figures that Fierro is reviewing, and to make a controversial notation in the books to wipe out a $113,000 discrepancy.

The variance has dogged the committee for more than a year. Research into the town's books going back two years hasn't uncovered the error and the town's auditor has recommended correcting the figure with a journal entry since it hasn't changed in the past year.

"I know we all want to just clean this up," said Selectman William Schrade Jr.

Finance Committee member Lori-Anne Aubin noted funds had been budgeted for Scanlon & Associates to audit the town's books and asked for a followup.

She also expressed optimism that financial figures would continue to improve.

"It can be part of all of the entries that are being made later this summer," she said. "David has a task to look at all fund balances ... because ideally what we want is for the end of August for all the fund balances to be correct."

That will mean the town will be able to submit its Schedule A annual financial report to the state to certify free cash in a timely manner, she said, and it will mean "good numbers" to begin budgeting for fiscal 2016.

"It's done by September so we're on time so we don't have to postpone another town meeting," agreed Denault, referring to the delay into June this past year.

Schrade hoped that the budget could be completed by May; Aubin was more optimistic it could be April.

"I think it will be more of a healthy debate where to move money compared to saying 'I've been waiting for answers,'" said Schrade.

They capped off fiscal 2014 with the approval of $4,104.67 from accounts for overages in line items.

Some $2,517.07 was transferred from the reserve account under the Municipal Relief Act, which allows transfers of up to 3 percent of a department budget not exceeding $5,000 without calling a special town meeting. That included a low of 75 cents to the Council on Aging account and a high of $809.32 to veterans services.

The transfer also included $975.54 from reserve and another $1,587.60 from the State Unemployment Tax account to the FICA line item because a posting error.

"I think we're using money wisely here and I think it's going to help our free cash for next year," said  Denault.

Tags: fiscal 2014,   municipal finances,   

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