seeing ‘red’ over new deficit data in audit
Patrick Whittle, Register Staff November 03, 2000
SEYMOUR — Still reeling from a series of financial shocks, town residents will soon be hit with another bombshell — the town remains mired in debt that could exceed $400,000.
Despite deep spending cuts and a steep special tax levy, the annual town audit will reveal more red ink, said First Selectman Scott Barton Thursday.
Auditors unearthed two major financial errors that weren’t discovered by previous auditors, he said. Those errors add another $381,000 to the town’s debt load, and Barton said he believes the audit will uncover more missing funds, as well.
"The news isn’t good," Barton said.
Barton said he "has an idea" what the total deficit is, from speaking with the auditors, but he will not offer specifics until the audit is released.
The audit, conducted by Simione, Scillia, Larrow & Dowling of New Haven, should come out as early as next week, he said.
Seymour officials had hoped for a small surplus to emerge after they took drastic action to head off an estimated $3.5 million deficit earlier this year.
But the discovery of two more financial errors that took place during the administration of former First Selectman John O’Toole will dash those hopes.
In July 1999 the finance department failed to register a $317,000 year-end budget transfer from the general fund to the Board of Education, Barton said.
And $64,000 allocated from the general fund to pay part of the cost of buying the former Dive Rescue Building on New Haven Road was not accounted for, he said.
That brought the deficit in fiscal 1998-99 to $567,000, Barton said. The town’s former audit firm, DiSanto & Bertoline of Glastonbury," reported the 1998-99 deficit at $186,000.
The town imposed a 3.75 mill special tax in May, raised taxes 14 percent in July and instituted midyear budget cuts when officials learned the town was in debt and faced a potential $3.5 million shortfall in fiscal 1999-2000.
The deficit was the subject of an extensive special audit by Checkers International Inc. of Fairfield, released in August.
The Checkers’ report detailed an atmosphere of alleged lax oversight and careless spending habits on the part of the O’Toole administration.
Although Barton said he does not anticipate another special tax will be levied, state law mandates the town cover its deficit in the next fiscal year, which begins in July. Tax increases and budget cuts are the typical methods to alleviate municipal deficits.
Barton said one of the reasons the town brought in a new auditing firm was to put "a new set of eyes" on the town’s finances. He said Simione, Scillia, Larrow & Dowling did just that by uncovering these new financial missteps.
"This set of eyes revealed what we hope is the final financial analysis of the mistakes made by the previous administration," Barton said.
and members of his administration have denied any financial improprieties.
O’Toole could not be reached for comment Thursday.