Belated audit slows Naples budget process

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — The Naples selectmen experienced the domino effect this week.

On Monday, the board should have been receiving the town manager’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Instead, the board heard that the auditing firm was holding up the budget process for the town.

The auditing firm engaged by the Town of Naples, RHR Smith and Company, of Buxton, has yet to perform the audit needed to complete the draft budget, according to Naples Town Manager Ephrem Paraschak. He updated the board on the 2017–18 budget during the manager’s comments.

“The head of the auditing firm wants to meet with me,” Paraschak said.

He was not certain the meeting would take place this week. One promised the previous week had not panned out.

“One thing this year is to look at our auditing” contract again, Paraschak said.

Chairman Bob Caron II spoke on the topic.

“In four years, we keep having issues. The audit keeps getting dragged on and dragged on. Then, it cuts into the budget committee doing their work,” Caron said.

“After this budget season is done, we should find another company that can work better with the town,” Caron said.

Paraschak said, “Just being comfortable with a contract is not where it’s at.”

Because of the holiday, Presidents’ Day, which falls on a Monday, the board will not meet again until Feb. 27. Most likely, Paraschak will e-mail board members copies of the draft budget when that is done.

He did provide the selectmen with a quick overview.

There will be increases in the administration portion of the budget because of personnel and health care costs, he said. There will be a three percent cost of living adjustment (COLA) for employees, he said. Additionally, the Naples Fire and Rescue Department employees are at pay ranges that “with the new minimum wage law” are “dangerously close” to the new minimum wage.

“Those are things we are going to have to look at,” Paraschak said.

“I am aiming for zero percent increase, no mil rate increases,” he said. He stressed that the tax rate he was referring to is for the municipal budget only and does not include the School Administrative District (SAD) 61 or Cumberland County.

After meeting with the town auditor, Paraschak plans to look at areas of spending for the past couple years and “see where we can do reductions.”

“Ideally, in late February of early March” the Naples Budget Committee can meet with department heads. He estimated it would take one or two meetings to hear the requests of outside agencies. He also favored the idea of having a joint budget meeting with both selectmen and budget committee members present.

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