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Financial report issues plague Orange

ORANGE — Despite repeated requests, water officials say they are still not receiving timely, accurate financial information from the Town Hall, and according to Selectman George Willard, they are not alone.

“I’ve been getting complaints from all departments,” Willard said at the a recent selectboard meeting. He added that department chairs are “disgusted” by the lack of accurate financial reports from the town’s financial team. “They don’t know where they are … and how much has been spent,” he said of the town boards.

Water Superintendent Michael Heidorn told selectmen the lack of monthly financial reports is impeding the department’s ability to pay bills and move forward with plans to update infrastructure, such as water pipes and pumps.

Unlike other town departments, the water and sewer departments operate solely on revenue from residents who use these systems. Heidorn said that while he keeps records of what bills he sends out, the payments go directly into Town Hall.

“Without monthly reports, we just don’t know what we have (for revenue).”

Water System Operator Richard Matthews told selectmen there are errors and blank spaces in the few reports that Heidorn has received.

Heidorn said the financial team has also been sluggish in transferring money from the town’s revolving fund to the department’s account, impeding his ability to pay bills. According to Heidorn, there has been only one transfer into the department’s account this fiscal year after he and Water Commissioners pressed the issue with town officials over the summer.

Town Administrator Diana Schindler responded that she knows the reports are not complete or accurate. She said the problems result from a variety of challenges that have beset the financial team over the past year.

Schindler said in an interview with The Recorder earlier this fall that team members have access to all the accurate information. However, the town’s transition to new accounting software prevents officials from generating accurate revenue and expenditure figures in one report.

In addition, she said vacancies in the treasurer and accountant positions over the past year have prevented these professionals from reconciling their work with each other, which must happen before money can be transferred from one account to another.

“The accountant has been here nearly a year … it seems that someone who is supposed to be a real professional should have made more headway by now,” Willard said. “This needs to be addressed and it needs to happen quickly.”

Later on in the meeting, Schindler noted that a few departments had not submitted FY13 budgets by the end of December, the deadline set by selectmen. In some cases, she said managers were not able to complete the budget because they did not have accurate or complete financial information to work with.

Heidorn was one of these managers. “We don’t even know where we are at for last fiscal year, let alone this year. So, it’s pretty hard for us to pull together a budget for next year,” he said.

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