Town hires CPA to right its financials

BLYTHEWOOD – Town Council passed final reading last week on the Town’s 2018-19 budget set at $1,565,114.

Town administrator Brian Cook said there were only a few changes in the budget since the first reading in May. Of note, however, is a transfer of $25,000 from the contingency fund into accounting services.

“That accounts partly for the cost of a review of our accounting records that we need moving forward,” Cook said.

He was referencing an announcement made by Mayor J. Michael Ross at the May council meeting that the town’s accounting and financial record keeping was not in proper order and that town hall “has not even commenced the annual audit process for last year’s (2016-17) audit.”

Ross said, however, that he believed the town’s finances to be in solid shape.

“It appears this situation has resulted from management’s failure to properly transition to the new accounting software system which was recommended to this council by professional public administrators who then failed to attain implementation,” Ross said.

Ross thanked Cook publicly for detecting this deficiency very early in his service to Blythewood. Cook was hired last February to replace Gary Parker who retired. Assistant administrator Chris Keefer left her position last month.

“Mr. Cook and the town’s staff are working diligently to correct this issue, and we hope to have the books ready for external independent audit within the next 45-60 days,” Ross said at the May meeting.

In an interview with The Voice on Monday, Cook reported that Love Bailey, an auditor hired by the Town, has completed the audit for 2016 and that he expects it to be presented at the July town council meeting. Cook said Love Bailey is also organizing the Town’s books for the 2017-18 audit which he said he expects to be presented on schedule in the late fall.

Budget Highlights

The proposed 2018-19 budget reflects $202,111 in building permits and fees, an increase of $17,111 over last year. Council also sees business licenses inside the town increasing from $94,871 to $113,351 and business license outside the town increasing from $80,188 to $92,491.

Town Hall salaries include a three percent cost of living and a three percent merit based pot. A sum of $9,250 is set aside in the budget for boardwalk security cameras in the park and $3,500 for supplies for the amphitheater.

Cook said that due to pending development projects under consideration, it is anticipated to have an increase in state accommodation tax and hospitality tax of $6,513 and $6,255 respectively.

The annual economic development grant for the Greater Blythewood Chamber of Commerce will increase from $15,000 to $17,500, and is funded out of the general fund.  Council continued to fund the visitor center at $18,500 even though it voted to only fund it for 6 months at $9,250. It increased the Historical Society’s funding from $20,500 to $21,500.

Council also proposes to fund $10,000 of accommodation tax revenue for The Big Grab in September, an increase of $1,250 over last year, but it has not been determined whether that funding will be allocated for the Chamber this year. The Chamber has received the funding the last two years.