Limestone looking to fix deficiencies identified by state auditors

7 years ago

LIMESTONE, Maine — Following a state audit, Limestone Town Manager Matthew Pineo and selectmen are working to address material weaknesses and significant deficiencies that were identified with the way town finances are handled.

Auditors define a material weakness as one or more deficiencies occurring within a town that could result in a misstatement of financial information not being detected or corrected in “a timely basis.” Significant deficiencies are any issues that are less severe than a material weakness, but still “important enough to merit attention.”

During a Nov. 1 selectmen’s meeting, Pineo, who just took the helm as town manager on Oct. 2, and the selectmen discussed the issues and possible corrections as well as training in software programs for municipal employees.

Pineo said the first material weakness uncovered involved the town’s bank accounts not being properly reconciled, and that auditors recommend municipal officials perform reconciliations on a monthly basis moving forward.

The second material weakness was that several months worth of payroll expenses weren’t recorded, which resulted in the “failure to create payroll warrants to be signed by the Board of Selectmen.” Pineo said he recently completed three payroll warrants dating back to August of last year, which will bring the town up to date. He added that, moving forward, he and other officials will need to receive and sign warrants on a bi-weekly basis.

Significant deficiencies included payroll approval not being completed, incorrect posting of items on the town’s financial statement, a failure to record the budget using the town’s TRIO software, and a “large number of taxes that were uncollectable on the books.”

Selectmen Chair Steven Beaulieu asked if the uncollectable taxes were for real estate or personal property.

Pineo said they were for both, adding that there are “significant problems in both areas.”

State auditors recommended that town officials review the outstanding taxes and use the proper lien or foreclosure process or other legal means to collect those taxes. Those that cannot be collected should be written off.

The final issue, which relates to properly training employees to use TRIO software, was discussed briefly by Pineo and the board.

“All office employees should be properly trained so they can perform their duties,” Pineo said. “I am suggesting training for staff, and they will probably have to go to Bangor.”

Beaulieu suggested that instead of just training Limestone officials, perhaps the town could collaborate with nearby municipalities and collectively fund a trip and hotel room for a couple of licensed trainers from Bangor to come up to Aroostook County as opposed to funding a trip and lodging for several town employees to go to Bangor.

“It would be cheaper to bring someone from Bangor up here than to drive fifteen or twenty people down there,” Beaulieu said.

Pineo agreed with Beaulieu, and said he would speak with the municipal association about bringing instructors to The County.

“We could have a two-day training session,” Pineo said, adding that it would be “much easier to put just a couple of people in a hotel overnight.”

In regards to the entire audit, Pineo told the board that he is actively working to get everything back on track.

“I’m making sure this gets corrected immediately,” he said. “It’s going to time for some of these items. Some could take up to three months.”