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Town and Village

Town learns findings from FY16 audit

PUTNEY—The town’s annual audit resulted in a few findings — none that surprised town officials, and none that should cause alarm, according to the town manager.

During the review of the Fiscal Year 2016 audit performed by John Mudgett of the CPA firm Mudgett, Jennett & Krogh-Wisner, Mudgett shared a few of his concerns with the Selectboard and Town Manager Cynthia Stoddard.

“The one that certainly gets my attention is the Internal Revenue Service and the state payroll tax reporting. Those are situations that still seem to not be under control,” Mudgett said, adding, “any time there are reports not filed timely or taxes not remitted timely, it’s open season for penalties and bad publicity."

Mudgett was referring to Treasurer Anita Coomes’s repeated failure to file state and federal tax forms on time, or at all. [“Selectboard raises more questions on treasurer’s completion of duties,” Town & Village, Oct. 26]

Mudgett also issued a finding on Coomes’ not sending multiple years’ worth of dog license fees to the state, including not cashing the dog owners’ checks, resulting in the “stale dating” of some of the checks.

With those checks, the town still owed the state its portion of the dog license fees, and the town had to write off the loss.

The Selectboard and Stoddard received praise from Mudgett for their transparency in reporting the problems, and for coming up with a solution to prevent their recurrence. Stoddard has taken on some of Coomes’s duties, including assuming payroll duties and creating and following a schedule for the filing of future tax forms.

By Stoddard pitching in, “it brings a control into place where there’s another set of eyes looking at what’s happening,” Mudgett said, adding that his firm suggests these same controls to other clients.

Although Mudgett said “at least it’s been discussed and recognized,” Selectboard members repeated their assertions — which they have made at numerous Board meetings — that while they appreciate Stoddard’s expertise and cooperation, these tasks aren’t part of the town manager’s job.

Regarding repercussions these findings might have on Putney’s municipal operations, Stoddard told The Commons in an email, “There are no immediate repercussions but when applying for grants, borrowing or bonding, we are required to show our audited financial statements. This could cause a problem with a potential lender or grantor.”

Stoddard added, “the current findings should not be cause for alarm from that perspective because we are in good financial standing and the two findings are being corrected.”

“The most important thing when a town has a finding,” Stoddard said, “is to disclose it to the public so that they are aware of a potential cost to the town.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #384 (Wednesday, November 23, 2016). This story appeared on page B6.

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