Wiscasset Selectmen

School funds found in town audit

Town report dedicated to Ray Soule
Posted:  Wednesday, May 16, 2018 - 7:30am

The funds the Wiscasset School Department has maintained for years were in town coffers  – $1.1 million – were found in the town’s 2017 audit, according to town treasurer Vernice Boyce . However, auditor Fred Brewer cautioned while some is cash, the rest is in accounts payable, such as unpaid taxes.

The audit, still being worked on, received a long discussion at Tuesday’s selectmen’s meeting.. Brewer said part of the problem with the town’s books was, many of the funds, like the school funds, were in unassigned accounts or elsewhere they should not have been in the budget. Chair Judy Colby said it was clear the town believed it had a larger fund balance than it did for years. “It is undeniable that we spent money that did not belong to the town,” she said.

As for the school monies, Boyce said those belong to the schools, and are released when the school department asks to pay an accounts payable item or a salary. ”When we get a request to release the payment, we will have to do that,” she said. “Until then, it stays in the town’s checkbook.” Boyce said having the funds available would avoid the town needing a tax anticipation note, which has interest. The first round of property taxes are due the end of October. The fiscal year starts July 1. So the town gets TANs. 

The town believed it had a fund balance of about $140,000 in June 2017. It was $58,000. 

Boyce said she is moving fund balances around so the mistake cannot occur again. “Each fund balance belongs in a particular fund. We’re moving them around so we can see exactly what the funds are, and what they can be spent on.”

Boyce and Brewer said they would continue to work on the audit this week, with a goal of completing it by the end of June.

A change to how the school budget is managed begins July 1, with the town transferring funds at the schools’ request to pay an outstanding bill, but holding all the voter-approved funds in a town-held account. Brewer said for schools not part of a school district, that is typical.

Wiscasset has dedicated the town report to Ray Soule. He and wife Suzanne have lived in Wiscasset the past 47 years. He chairs the planning board and has served on it the past 23 years. Soule, 76, retired in 1988 as Wiscasset schools’ transportation director. He owns an excavation business. His wife said he is trying to retire, but keeps getting drawn into things associated with his many interests.

During public comment, several residents discussed parking on the side streets. Ann Scanlon was concerned about the makeup of the Downtown Project Public Advisory Committee.  She said there appeared to be no members with business interests that did not support the state’s project, and she was not ready to give up any parking on the side streets.

Police Chief Jeff Lange said much of the side street parking was illegal; it is not far enough from the road crossing, for instance. Selectman Jeff Slack said the rationale to exclude parking from the last six spaces on the block was because with the traffic signals, people who manage to park in those spaces would not be able to pull out into traffic as the cars back up down the side streets. Colby said the public safety team planned to make parking recommendations, and the PAC’s recommendations would be brought to the selectmen.

Town Manager Marian Anderson announced the Chewonki Campground has hired an appraiser, so the town will soon have a figure to begin negotiations with the campground about the avigation easement needed to remove aviation hazards, particularly trees, near Runway 7. 

Due to the length of the delay, the board voted to transfer Federal Aviation Administration funds assigned to Wiscasset Municipal Airport to Waterville. When the funds are needed, they can be transferred back. Last year, the airport transferred the funds to another airport for the same reason.

Three more pier applications were approved for the summer season – Maine Kayak, The Potter’s Shed, and Doublet Design.

Selectman Benjamin Rines Jr. said the town is looking for the next person to give the Boston Post Cane to. It goes to a town’s oldest resident. Rines said the town is looking for its residents 95 or older who would like to be the Post Cane holder. Contact the town office to be considered.

Selectmen meet next on June 5.