Saugus year-end audit comes with suggestions

SAUGUS – During a walk through of the fiscal year end audit Wednesday, Matt Angell of the auditing firm Melanson and Heath said the report didn’t just come with numbers; it also came with suggestions.In the management letter portion of the report, Angell said there were a number of issues the town needed to tackle. While many were housekeeping items such as making backup copies of town records to store offsite, others were larger issues such as collapsing the landfill enterprise account.Top on Angell’s list is monitoring revenue at Kasabuski Ice Arena. The ice rink is the one black mark on the town’s year-end audit since it came in with a $600,000-plus deficit.Angell said he understands the town has worked to alleviate the deficit, but said there is still no mechanism in place that puts the brakes on spending.”We’re just asking you to monitor that closer,” he said.Angell also suggested the town develop a bylaw that would bring the rink’s Board of Governors under the Selectmen’s jurisdiction.Another big issue Angell said he’d like to see changed is how water and sewer fees are billed and abatements are handled. Currently, the tax collector handles all three issues, which Angell said could set the stage for trouble.”Segregate the water and sewer for sure,” he said. “It’s a risk area to have on person in charge of both. There could be irregularities and you wouldn’t even see them.”Angell said he would also suggest closing the landfill enterprise account and collapsing it into the general fund.Frank Byron, president of Melanson Heath, said the main reason to have an enterprise account is so the town can track revenue. But the landfill is long past its revenue-generating phase, which Byron added, does not look good on the town’s books.Since the only thing the account is used for is post closure costs and to fund a lawsuit filed during the closing procedures, Byron said it could easily be picked up in the general fund.Town Manager Andrew Bisignani questioned how to dissolve an enterprise account, but Byron pointed him toward Town Meeting.”I think Town Meeting would have to vote to close it,” he said. “They had to vote to establish it.”Other issues Angell said the town should monitor included getting a handle on the number of leases it has floating around. Angell said he came across several leases that town employees could not identify.”Which is not unusual,” he added quickly. “But I recommend the town identify all its lease agreements and report them under the treasurer.”Angell admitted the list of items the town needed to address was long, but said that’s largely because the standards have changed.”There are new audit standards out there, so we’re having to report on things we didn’t before,” he said. “We have to raise more issues than we have in the past.”Byron said overall the town was doing a better job than it had in the past in regards to its departments being in order. But he added there were a couple of items, such as the rink and the water and sewer billing that tend to reappear on the recommendation list year after year.”Monitor the revenue at the rink,” he said. “That’s a biggie. I would like to see that go away for sure.”

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