Friday, June 16, 2000
Administrator puts freeze on town spending
Unanticipated expenses and a backlog in town record-keeping forced the interim town administrator to issue a moratorium on town department spending on June 13. Even before the May and June bills, interim town administrator Madonna Mckenzie believes the $115,000 reserve fund, set aside for unanticipated expenses, is nearly depleted for the fiscal year 2000 which ends on June 30.
McKenzie blamed the overruns largely on legal fees in "a highly litigious season" and insurance rates which were set after the budgeting process was complete. As of May, McKenzie said the town had run up $30,000 in legal bills over the $46,000 budgeted amount. The finance committee had set aside $125,000 in the reserve fund to cover such overruns, but $10,000 was transferred at Town Meeting for town office computer-related expenses, and the remaining $115,000 is "pretty well spent," according to McKenzie. Very concerned about the situation, McKenzie said she saw no alternative as there's not enough time for a Special Town Meeting to transfer additional funds.
At the June 13 financial team meeting, McKenzie explained that the moratorium pertained to discretionary and unanticipated expenses in town departments. The school department does not have to abide by the freeze because it is separate but it must work within its own budget, she said. Obviously concerned, Carlisle School business manager Eileen Riley pointed out that they had already informed the finance committee of their need for reserve funds due to overruns for their own legal expenses and special education costs. However, Riley agreed to go over the school budget again in search of additional funds.
It appears that a backlog in the accounting process hindered officials from identifying the grim circumstance of the FY00 budget sooner. Due to computer difficulties and other problems, McKenzie said she was "not confident in closure [of the books] past December." One computer glitch, traceable to duplicate computer identification numbers, has been resolved and the administrator plans to hire a summertime temporary employee to catch up on the data entry. In addition, she will distribute an Excel software package, used by board of health agent Linda Fantasia, to all departments and provide training to employees, as needed. This software will allow each department to track their own expenditures during the year and know the status of their accounts without having to go to the town accountant.
When selectman Doug Stevenson asked how employees had responded to the directive, McKenzie responded, "You've got great departments. Everyone is most cooperative. They were very understanding and willing to work towards it."
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito