Seymour deficit could get bigger Latest audit
  uncovers new accounting errors
 By AARON J. LEO  Saturday, November 04, 2000 

SEYMOUR -- The town could face additional debt on top of about $1.6 million
remaining from accounting errors over the past two years, officials said Friday.

"There's going to be more disturbing news for the taxpayers in Seymour," said Robert Kennedy, chairman of the Board of Finance.

An audit will reveal two financial errors that two past auditors missed, adding to the larger deficit, at one time an estimated $3.5 million stemming from the 1998-99 budget, Kennedy said.

He said he has an idea of the deficit after speaking with the auditing firm Simione, Scillia, Larrow & Dowling of New Haven, but would not say anything until the firm's report is released next week.

First Selectman Scott Barton said the town hired the firm to conduct the $48,000 audit to let "a new set of eyes" review the town's finances. Barton said he was pleased the town's finances are clearing up.

"I'm glad the new auditors are finding these mistakes so we can finally clean up our finances, but every time I hear of this I get more and more frustrated," he said.

State law mandates that municipalities balance their budgets, so any deficits must be made up in the following year's budget through spending cuts or tax increases.

To raise funds, the town imposed a one-time special tax in March by hiking its mill rate from 27 mills to 30.8 mills, generating about $2.5 million, Kennedy said.  A mill is equal to $1 per $1,000 of assessed property value.  The town also made deep budget cuts.

Both Barton and Kennedy estimated Friday that the town would come within several hundred thousand dollars of balancing its current budget, which ends next June 30.

Town officials discovered the deficit in August 1999, after Democratic First Selectman John O'Toole resigned to work in the private sector.  Officials commissioned a $45,000 special audit by Checkers Investigative Systems of Fairfield to review the town's finances.

In the 260-page report released two months ago, the auditing firm, made up of former agents of the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service, assigned no blame for budget problems but concluded that the town should tighten its fiscal controls.