Town of Saratoga to engage outside accounting firm
Saratoga Town Council holds special meeting Friday afternoon, unanimously agrees to engage with Childress Accounting and Consulting
September 18, 2019
On Friday afternoon, the Saratoga Town Council held a special meeting of the governing body to discuss engaging with an outside accounting firm to review financials and provide assistance. The special meeting comes following multiple town council meetings in which questions have been raised about the accuracy of the town's finances.
Upon calling the meeting to order, Mayor John Zeiger informed the audience that a committee composed of Councilmembers Jon Nelson and Judy Welton, Saratoga Town Clerk Suzie Cox, Saratoga Town Treasurer Sammy Flohr, attorneys Tom Thompson and Cathy MacPherson and accountant Greg Johnson had met on Sept. 17.
Zeiger then turned the discussion over to Welton, who serves as the council representative to town hall.
"Even before this meeting took place, Suzie and I met together to address some of the questions that Mr. Nelson had," said Welton.
The council member added there were issues with how the liabilities, manual checks and payroll had been added together in the past and that Welton and Cox were working on new ways to present the report.
"There was nothing wrong with the figures. It was the ones we had together and then added them together. So, we came up with a different way to do that and Mr. Nelson had asked for some other backups and reports. Copies of checks. Suzie and I put together a packet and gave it to him, maybe a week or 10 days before this meeting," Welton said.
According to Welton, it was agreed upon in the meeting that it would be in the best interest of the Town of Saratoga to engage with an accounting firm.
"We all felt that in the interest of presenting better figures to the public and to us, that it would be advantageous to hire an outside source to come in," said Welton. "There are balances that have been carried forward for several years that should have been zeroing out. Suzie and Sammy have been working with Casell, who is our software provider for all of our accounting systems and we've had that system for quite a long time."
Welton stated it was her belief that there was nothing wrong with the figures, but that it was possible that money could have been applied to the wrong account.
"Those are all things that can be corrected, but they can't be corrected unless you go back a ways and come forward," Welton said. "Because we're carrying those balances on and on and we need to zero them out and start where they belong."
Following Welton's explanation of the purpose in engaging with an outside accounting firm, Zeiger allowed Nelson to add to the discussion. The council member, who has raised concerns about financial statements in previous meetings, stated that he had left the meeting on Wednesday feeling "like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders."
"I think it was a productive meeting and I think that the fact that we're sitting here today considering bringing in an outside accountant is evidence that there's a consensus that we need to do something and that today's kind of setting off on that mission to take a step in a positive direction," said Nelson.
Nelson added that he believed the purpose of the involvement of the accounting firm was to reconstruct the Town of Saratoga's account, correct any errors and ensure that those corrections were documented.
"Ultimately, just to ensure that the financial statements that we're being provided as a council are accurate," Nelson said.
Zeiger then read a letter of engagement from James Childress, president of Childress Accounting and Consulting. Childress informed the council in his letter that his estimate for services was at $2,750. Welton added that the Town of Saratoga had presented the letter to Thomspon, who made requests that had been included in the final letter.
"We did request that the first couple time that they meet with our staff and anybody they deem that they need to meet with, that they come and do it in person. He did indicate from that point on there is a lot he can do over the computer and remotely and phone," said Zeiger.
The town council made a unanimous decision to engage with Childress Accounting and Consulting and to allow Childress to access Casell, the Town of Saratoga's accounting program.