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'Angry' councilman wants financial review

July 13, 2005|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

WILLIAMSPORT - Upset about Williamsport's money troubles, Councilman Jeff Cline on Monday called for the state to review 13 years' worth of town financial records.

"I'm an angry councilman," Cline said as he alleged that poor management and record-keeping could push the town's deficit from $265,000 to more than $1 million.

Cline and other council members then voted unanimously to have Mayor James G. McCleaf II request, within 24 hours, a state review.

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As he criticized recent financial practices, Cline cited a July 2002 letter from the state Department of Legislative Services, which called the town's consistently late audits "appalling."

"The Town has been delinquent in its [audit] filings every year since fiscal 1992," the letter says.

Tuesday, John W. Slayman, who was mayor from 1985 to 2005, said the accounting firm Teti & Carswell was late each year. Each time the state complained, Slayman leaned on the firm, which then submitted the audit, he said.

Ron Shifler, an auditor with Teti & Carswell, declined to comment Tuesday.

The 2002 Department of Legislative Services letter signed by Executive Director Karl S. Aro said the town filed an incomplete draft for fiscal 2000 and hadn't yet filed a fiscal 2001 report.

The letter said the town's charter could be repealed if it didn't file a required report three straight years. Also, the town could lose at least $370,000 in revenue and grants.

Tuesday, Aro said he wanted to check the latest on the town's filings before commenting.

McCleaf said he sent an e-mail about the requested review to the Department of Legislative Services Monday night and he called Tuesday, but he did not hear back. He said those inquiries seem to satisfy the 24-hour provision in Cline's motion.

At Monday's meeting, Cline stood as he blasted the town's fiscal situation.

Starting at $265,000 - which Shifler said in May was the town's general-fund deficit for fiscal year 2004 - Cline added:

  • $100,000 the town is losing on its trash collection.

  • $80,000 the town is losing on its pool.

  • $183,000 for a U.S. Housing and Urban Development grant or loan that was not properly documented.



"We're rapidly approaching a million-dollar deficit," Cline concluded.

Last month, the town council passed a $3.1 million budget for fiscal year 2006 after department heads were told to cut spending. The property tax rate stayed the same, but the sewer rate is expected to go up about 20 percent.

Although the town's fiscal year 2004 audit was at least six months late, McCleaf said Tuesday the town will continue to use Teti & Carswell. He promised that future audits will be filed on time.

Slayman said questions about the firm arose each year, but no one on the council suggested hiring another one.

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