By Elizabeth F. McNamara
The last time the Town Council and residents got a status update on fiscal year 2018, which ended June 30th, was on April 9, when Finance Director Linda Dykeman presented her 3rd quarter report, which included a projected $937,000 budget deficit.
Monday night, Dykeman presented her 1st quarter fiscal year 2019 report but when Councilman Mark Schwager asked for information about the 4th quarter, Dykeman said she would not release the data because it was in the middle of being audited.
“There’s no organization that going to run with no financial reports for six months,” said Schwager.
“That’s not accurate. You have the finance report for the first quarter. I would rather be accurate,” said Town Council President Sue Cienki.
“I think we should have a basic idea of how we finished our year. I’m not asking for an audited final report. I want a progress report. How did we do in 2018?” Schwager said.
“I want accurate numbers,” said Cienki.
“I want the finance director to give me her best estimate, as she did tonight for the first quarter,” said Schwager.
Both Cienki and Schwager are running for re-election.
“We’re making journal entries every day,” said Town Manager Gayle Corrigan. “We just can’t draw a line in the sand halfway through.”
Dykeman said she should be able to get audited end-of-year numbers to the council by December.
Councilman Sean Todd said the schools ended up with a surprise deficit of more than $700,000 in FY2017, but Schwager disputed this, saying it was closer to $400,000. (According to joint Town-School Budget Hearing in May, the School Committee had budgeted using $525,000 out of its fund balance for 2017 but by year’s end needed $728,000 out of fund balance, a $203,000 difference. As a portion of the entire $63 million budget, that discrepancy equals .3 percent.
Schwager noted the state requires quarterly reports from municipalities 25 days after the close of the quarter. For the fourth quarter, that was July 25. The state has not received a fourth quarter report from East Greenwich, among several communities. These communities have submitted fourth quarter reports: Barrington, Smithfield, West Warwick, Narragansett, Portsmouth, Scituate, Warren and Westerly.
According to former Town Manager Bill Sequino, who served in that position 25 years (until 2013), the Town Council got monthly reports during his tenure. He acknowledged June was always tricky because it took so long for all bills and payments to come in.
Peder Schaefer of the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns also noted getting a hard result on June can take a while, but he said a finance director should have some kind of estimate by the end of August.
“When i was on Town Council, we did get monthly reports,” said Michael Isaacs, who served as council president from 2004 to 2016. “The monthly report for the last month of the fiscal year would give a picture of how the year would end up. We always knew that was subject to revision after the audit was done.”
He added, “I believe in transparency in financial reporting and timely reports.”
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