Rockingham Selectboard hear report on finances

ROCKINGHAM, Vt. – On Thursday, Aug. 5, the Rockingham Selectboard discussed finances with Cynthia Stoddard from NEMRC, the Vermont-based software company.

Stoddard, NEMRC’s director of training and support, said she has worked in municipal government accounting for 20 years. She has consulted with Rockingham’s Finance Department three times when needed for vacancies or training; this time she has been here since June 14.

Her main focus, she explained, was to get the town caught up for year-end audits and give the Selectboard accurate fund balances before the start of budget season.

Stoddard said loan payments were missing, and she had to reconcile cash that had not been reconciled on bank statements for the past 11 months. She explained that all payments had been captured, and she was currently working on sending a clean trial balance to the auditors, but explained, “It’s like a ball of yarn.”

Stoddard was also working with Wendy Wilton, previous treasurer of Rutland City, who was focusing on tax variance, which should be reconciled and zeroed at month-end, and revolving loan fund schedules.

Stoddard explained that she was working two days a week on a year’s worth of work, but said she felt good about the progress.

She said the $129,000 of the first round of Covid-19 funding had all been allocated to the town’s general fund and had moved expenses to the right funds, revenue now matching expenses.

Development Director Gary Fox had developed a spreadsheet of information, and Stoddard said it is “a huge giant puzzle to make sure we match expenses with revenues.”

She explained that payroll was a “significant area of concern” and had found errors on a few employees’ W2s where taxes had not been taken out. “The affected employees have been told,” and reconciled W2s would need to be reissued, as would the quarterly 941. Darlene Kelly was assisting. She was uncertain if there were penalties, but said, “Payroll needs a thorough review.”

Stoddard appreciated Brenda Doherty and Pam Willard in the Finance Department, commenting, “They are so helpful… Everybody’s just been super helpful.”

She reminded the Selectboard, “It’s not all doom and gloom… It’s like peeling an onion.”

Rick Cowan asked, “How did our auditor not report this to us?”

Municipal Manager Scott Pickup understood that both boards had been frustrated. He agreed the auditors could implement practices to establish benchmark finances to “eliminate some of the problems from recurring… obviously things we were doing incorrectly, mistakes were made, and compounded over time.”

Stoddard said that the auditors were matching numbers on year-end, not necessarily looking at everything. She said best practices have been in place in the past. “We just need to reinstate them… It’s getting the right mix of staff to make it happen.”

Stoddard commented that delinquent taxes are pretty high, asking, “Is there a focus on that?”

Golec said they would discuss tax sales at the September Joint Board meeting.

Stoddard said a new fund would be created for American Rescue Plan Act funds, and it would not be “in the general fund as revenue… I’m keeping it separate from that until you figure out what you want to do with it.”

Susan Hammond asked for confirmation that “We are not in the situation we were several years ago…with USDA funding and reporting?”

Stoddard explained, “[We] can’t answer that question…but bills have been paid and we have made some good progress.”

The Selectboard thanked her for the work.

Referencing the previous week’s storm and extensive damage to Rockingham roads, Pickup wanted to give a shout out to Vermont Department of Transportation for their help with trucks and hauling materials. He said that DOT and the Rockingham Town Highway crew were tremendous.

The Rockingham Selectboard will resume their first Wednesday and third Tuesday meeting schedule in September. Look for details for the annual September meeting at the Rockingham Meeting House.

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