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Wakefield gets good news about 2013 audit

by Thomas Beeler
Editor of The Granite State News

TOWN ADMINISTRATOR TERESA WILLIAMS holds up drawings by Judy Brenner of the proposed town seal at the July 9 Wakefield selectmen's meeting as Selectman Connie Twombley looks on. (Photo courtesy of Ed Comeau of GovermentOversite.com) (click for larger version)
July 17, 2014
WAKEFIELD — At a time when Carroll County commissioners are enmeshed in audit issues dating back to 2009, Wakefield selectmen were presented with not only an unqualified audit opinion but compliments from town auditor Vachon Clukay at the board's July 9 meeting.

Tammy Webb, director of Assurance Services at Vachon Clukay, supervised the 2013 audit and presented its results. She reported that at the end of 2013 the town has $12 million in assets, including $6.55 million in cash and investments, and liabilities of $4.7 million, yielding a net positive position of $7.29 million.

Webb stressed that the most important thing to look at in town finances is the General Fund and how well it performed against budget. In 2013 total revenues in Wakefield exceeded expenses by $174,000, or 3.4 percent. "A excellent job of estimating revenues," she commented.

Looking beyond the General Fund, total expenditures were under budget by $59,000, or 1.23 percent of the total budget.

The town ended the year with $1.7 million as an unassigned fund balance. The goal has been to keep this fund at between 8 percent and 17 percent of total appropriations, including school expenses, and the $1.7 million equaled 13.34 percent. The unassigned fund balance is used for unexpected expenses and, most importantly, to help keep the tax rate down. "This is a healthy financial position," Webb said.

Webb took the opportunity to point out that Wakefield is one of a few towns who have fully implemented GASB 45, the post-employment benefit reporting requirement of the Government Accounting Standards Board, set in 2004. She also complimented town staff: "Everyone was very cooperative and helpful."

Province Lake Watershed Plan

Jon Samuelson, president of the Province Lake Association, and Linda Schier, executive director of the Acton Wakefield Watersheds Alliance, met with selectmen to thank them for the town's help with Phase I drainage projects on Bonnyman Road and to ask for the board's endorsement on a grant proposal to the state Department of Environmental Services for Phase II, which would correct two or three additional sites on the road, which runs along Province Lake.

Samuelson reported that more than 200 people came to the Province Lake breakfast and invited selectmen to come to the presentation on the Province Lake Watershed Plan on Saturday, July 19, from 9 to 11 at the Province Lake Golf Club.

Selectmen voted unanimously to sign a letter of support for the proposal

Tax-deeded properties

Two prior owners of properties taken by the town for non-payment of taxes through tax deeding met with the board to discuss how to re-acquire their properties

Attorney Michael McCarthy came representing Charlene Moriarty who is interested in purchasing the tax deeded property on Map 184, Lot 14, on Wentworth Road near the junction with Route 16. Prior owner Kelly Ames had gone through financial difficulties, a divorce and court case that left her unable to pay the taxes. Moriarty is interested in paying an agreed figure for back taxes, interest and penalties to allow Ames to regain the lot and sell it to her. Moriarty, who has lived in Wakefield for 27 years, owns the property across the street. Her son would live in the house.

The current total figure owed $21,350.54.

Selectmen Chair Ken Paul said state law requires a 15 percent penalty if the town takes the property and that is based on the full assessed value of the property. Moriarty said the house is not in good shape since pipes burst, so the real value is less than what the assessment says. If the total owed were reduced she could pay it right away.

Paul moved to reduce the total to $18,000 if paid in full by Aug. 1. The motion passed 3-0.

Dennis and Jacqueline Long asked what needed to be done to re-acquire Jacqueline's property at Map 8, Lot 56 on Bonnyman Road. Town Administrator Teresa Williams said the property was taken on Dec. 13, 2013. There is a three-year holding period before the town can sell the property, and during that period the property can be bought back by the original owner through payment of back taxes, interest and fees. The payoff amount needs to be requested from the town by certified letter before payment. Up until July 15 that amount is $14,155.06, of which $4,363 was the original tax and the bulk came from the 15 percent penalty discussed earlier. In effect the Longs have a right of first refusal on the property. The town can't take installment payments, only a lump sum. After Dec. 13, 2016, the town can sell the property either through auction or by sealed bids, Williams explained.

It was pointed out that if taxpayers in arrears contact the town before a property is tax-deeded, payment terms can be arranged. Williams pointed out that three years of unpaid taxes have to occur before a property can be taken, so paying off the oldest year defers the process for another year. Once the property is taken by tax deed the 15 percent penalty is added, so every effort should be made to avoid that.

Other business

The board voted to accept one of three bids for concrete foundations for the new salt sheds, thus clearing the way for that project to go ahead this fall. See separate story in this edition.

Selectman Connie Twombley reported that some residents complained that there was no notice on the town website that the transfer station would be closed July 4, though there were signs posted at the dump itself.

Williams was asked when the police would be checking for valid transfer station stickers and she responded that the topic will be discussed at the monthly department head meeting next week.

Twombley also said some elderly people living on Rines Road can't get to their mailboxes because of the high asphalt curb that was installed during road repaving. Five mailboxes were affected. Paul agreed to inspect the problem boxes with Road Agent Fred Clough.

Williams showed the board a proposed drawing of the town seal from Brookfield artist Judy Brenner. The image combines town hall with the veterans memorial. With minor changes selectmen approved the design and Brenner will be asked to do a final version.

William said that Valspar is offering 10 gallons of free paint to contractors for a limited time. She proposed using that offer in getting the work done this year on the hallway and tax collector's office. Paul and Selectman Charlie Edwards agreed to take a look at the work needed in the hallway but deferred to Williams on the paint color choice.

Peter Brown and Nancy Hall were appointed to the Heritage Commission.

The board will not hold a second meeting in July. The next meeting of the Wakefield Board of Selectmen will be on Wednesday, Aug. 13, at 7 p.m. in the Town Hall meeting room.

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