Schwager Seeks ‘18 Financials; Cienki Says Wait

by | Oct 23, 2018

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.”

Finance Director Linda Dykeman in front of the Town Council Oct. 22.

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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2 Comments

  1. bob ingwerson

    no report till December. odd isn’t there an election in a couple of weeks?

    Reply
  2. Bill Higgins

    Where’s the accuracy and accountability?

    After reviewing Ms. Dykeman’s 3rd quarter report from April and hearing her this past Monday she was able to come up with the actual dollar figure for the firefighter’s year end overtime. The number she quoted was $824,182 and the budgeted amount was $550,000 showing a difference of $274,182 which certainly has to be addressed and lowered. This is not the whole picture though. Back in April Ms. Dykeman predicted an estimated deficit of $937,445. After deducting the firefighter’s overtime from the projected year end deficit, it still leaves a deficit of $663,263, you can only blame our firefighters so far without having to explain the fiscal inefficiencies of this administration.

    Speaking of accuracy, I am amazed that the quarterly reports from Ms. Dykeman show that our schools are so efficient that they were able to manage their money to the exact dollar for the 3rd quarter as well as this 1st quarter. The school budget shows they spent (listed as year to date actuals) exactly 75% of their budget for 3rd quarter and exactly 25% this first quarter and the estimated year end totals for both were exactly right on budget to the dollar again. I have yet to see any budget in my life that was that accurate or perhaps Ms. Dykeman, more realistically, didn’t bother to put the real actual numbers in the report. So much for wanting to provide, “accurate numbers”.

    Where is the savings we were promised under the “One Town Plan” as devised by Ms. Corrigan? That plan has been a debacle since it was rolled out with Ms. Corrigan moving personnel into and out of school department functions without the knowledge nor approval from the school committee.

    Even the professionals that conducted the school audit, who are not running for office and are experts in the field, said on page 89 that nearly 2 months after the end of the fiscal year this information should be available, and that was almost 2 months ago. Mr. Ingerson is right, the real reason the report hasn’t been released is because those in power now, exclusive of Dr. Schwager, don’t want the residents to see how poorly the town has been managed since the arrival of the dynamic duo until after the election.

    Bill Higgins

    Reply

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