2 mills to cancel Seymour deficit
  By AMANDA CUDA   cuda.connpost@snet.net    Thursday, December 28, 2000

SEYMOUR -- An audit released last week confirmed that Seymour is about $1.2
million in debt, triggering a call for a tax increase of up to 2 mills.

First Selectmen Scott Barton said a tax boost and other changes could bring the town back into the black by the next fiscal year, starting July 1, 2001. 

Last week, the New Haven firm of Simione, Scillia, Larrow & Dowling released the audit, which included a list of recommendations on how the town can reverse the deficit. 

In November, Barton released portions of a preliminary audit from the firm showing $1.2 million in red ink. 

The audit indicated that the budget for the 1998-99 fiscal year reflected tax revenues that should have been applied to the following year.  As a result, the town's usual auditors, DiSanto & Bertoline of Glastonbury, reported a deficit of about $185,000 when the shortfall was closer to $1.1 million.

For fiscal 1999-2000, a deficit of $3.5 million came to light, triggering fiscal belt tightening and tax increases.  There were mid-year budget cuts, a special one-time tax of 3.75 mills imposed last spring and an additional 3.8-mill tax hike that kicked in for the current fiscal year this past July. Sewer-use fees were also increased.

Seymour's tax rate is currently 30.8 mills.

Barton said the most recent audit confirmed the preliminary findings of the remaining $1.2 million deficit, which will require a tax increase of at least 2 mills.

Other recommendations for dealing with the shortfall include overhauling how the Water Pollution Control Authority manages its funds and new accounting software for the town.

Another suggestion was to revamp Seymour's finance department.  The firm recommended hiring a more qualified director of finance.  In November, the selectmen voted to fire finance director Arthur Davies for allegedly mismanaging funds.  Barton said the town is currently advertising for a new director. He said the annual salary for the position will increase from about $50,000 to about $70,000 in hopes of finding more qualified candidates.

Barton has pinned many of the problems on the previous administration, including former First Selectman John O'Toole.  Town counsel Robert Nastri is currently examining the viability of legal action against that administration.

The Board of Finance was slated to discuss the audit tonight, but the meeting was canceled due to lack of quorum.  Chairman Bob Kennedy said the discussion likely will take place next Thursday.

Kennedy said that representatives from the auditing firm will attend the meeting, give a brief summary of the audit, then open up the meeting to questions. 

Barton said, while he expects a "very difficult budget season," he hopes the tax increase and other changes will help reverse the debt. 

"I'm very confident that once the budget is passed, the financial problems will be over," he said. 

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