Falmouth gets clean opinion from auditors, prepares for budget shortfall

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FALMOUTH — Auditors have given the town an “unqualified opinion,” which means an examination of town finances raised no red flags.

Auditors Greg Chabot and Jen Conners of Runyon Kersteen Ouellette presented the firm’s findings during a joint meeting of the town and school finance committees last week.

“This is the kind of opinion you want to get,” Conners said of the report. “Overall, it was a very good audit.”

Chabot said the town creates its own financial statements, while most towns have the auditors do that for them, and that saves Falmouth between $2,000 and $4,000 per audit.

The firm’s unqualified opinion means the auditors had no reservations in certifying that the financial statements adequately disclose material information, fairly present the town’s financial position, and conform to accepted accounting standards.

Most of what the auditors presented was good news, including an increase in cash and investments of approximately $859,000, and that the town’s unassigned fund balance is at 26.6 percent of its general expenditures, a very healthy amount.

Town Manager Nathan Poore said the town is in the process of renegotiating several service agreements. For example, the town sent invitations to local banks to see what kind of offers they could make to provide banking services.

He said it is likely the town would do the same thing with auditing in the near future, not because there is disappointment with RKO’s services, but because “it’s good practice.”

The committees also heard a brief presentation by the school and town regarding the upcoming budget.

Superintendent of Schools Barbara Powers said elimination of federal Jobs Bill money would hit the School Department in fiscal 2013, along with changes in the way Medicare reimbursement funds are disseminated. That will mean an estimated $565,000 revenue loss, she said.

Additionally, she said the schools had to hire an additional kindergarten teacher, as well as special education and regular education ed techs at the beginning of this year due to higher-than-anticipated enrollment and some special needs students.

While the schools are expecting an increase in state general purpose aid next year, about $250,000 of the expected $300,000 increase will be for the new elementary school.

The schools will also have expenses related to the installation of the middle school wood chip boiler, which was approved by voters in June.

On the town side, Poore said excise tax revenue appears to be going up and that state revenue sharing is also up, which could offset some annual expense increases, such as health insurance.

Serious budget discussions will begin in February, after more solid numbers come out of the state. An all-day school budget meeting will likely be held in April this year, instead of March, and the town referendum on the school budget will be held in June.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @emilyparkhurst.