SHIRLEY -- The multi-page report auditor Dick Hingston submitted this week after conducting an annual audit of the town's books was "mostly positive," Selectman David Swain said, despite anomalies the auditor spotted and for which he suggested corrections.
During a run-through of the report Monday night, Town Administrator Patrice Garvin said she's met with department heads and the Sewer Commission, whose accounting system contained most of the posting problems Hingston cited.
The recommended changes, some software-related, are in progress, she said, and Hingston plans to attend the next commission meeting to explain his findings.
Other than sewer, Hingston pointed to uses of funds created during the 2013 budget process that were not in line with the state's 'universal project rule" for reporting consistency now.
The Capital Project Fund, for example. Only certain big-ticket items that require borrowing, such as a dump truck, can be included on this list, he explained. "Other expenditures belong in the General Fund," he said, although it's fine to transfer Capital Stabilization Funds to the General Fund for specific purposes. Not for debt, though.
The next several items on Hingston's list concerned the Sewer Dept., including how user charges and payments are reported. He suggested a change in the billing register to better determine which customers owe how much. As it is, the set-up is flawed, he said.
For example, when a sewer bill is in arrears, it is forwarded to the assessors for inclusion on the property owner's tax bill. But without a chronological history for each user account - who owes what, who paid how much and showing abatements - totals are a moving target.
"This is a useful report if it operates properly," he said. "You can see the adjustments" and which customers got abatements, he said. Otherwise, "there's a reconciliation problem."
Also, sewer betterments and monthly user charges should be "completely segregated" and recorded in separate funds, he said.
"They're working on it," Town Accountant Bobby Jo Colburn said.
That was pretty much the official response to every item on Hingston's to-do list.
Hingston acknowledged none of them were "big money" items, but they were "not correct," he said, noting that his job is to examine the books with an expert eye and identify trouble spots, minor or not.
He also alerted the board to new and pending state regulations, such as funding the town's OPEB (post employment benefits) and retirement liability accounts, which were created but not funded yet.
Originally, the state rolled out a 30-year, phased in funding process, but Hingston said the grace period wouldn't hold much longer. "By 2015, we're required to add in $7 million" for those purposes, he said, probably as a single liability.