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Financial woe continues for Williamsport

August 10, 2005|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

WILLIAMSPORT

andrews@herald-mail.com

The financial jumble at Williamsport Town Hall includes questions about a $183,000 grant fund.

Clerk/Treasurer Bonnie J. Errico said the town is certain about just $32,000 of the community development block grant.

The town's accounting firm, Teti & Carswell, is trying to track the rest.

Mayor James G. McCleaf II told the town council Monday that the broad financial review was expected to cost $2,500, but is now closer to $4,000.

"Under our current setup, I don't think we have much choice," he said.

That "setup" includes a $265,000 deficit in the fiscal 2004 general fund and a 13-year history of sending late audits to the state.

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Of the grant fund, McCleaf said in an interview, "I don't know if it's all missing or not. Maybe it's paid out."

Grant fund money might have come from the state of Maryland, but that couldn't be confirmed Tuesday.

Under the program, McCleaf said, town residents may get low-interest loans of up to $30,000 to fix up homes.

He said some people received loans and repaid them, but money was mixed with other town money. The loan fund is frozen for now.

The town's recent audits have also been the subject of concern.

The town "has been delinquent ... every year since fiscal 1992," Department of Legislative Services Executive Director Karl S. Aro wrote in a July 2002 letter.

The fiscal 2000 audit was incomplete then and the fiscal 2001 audit hadn't been submitted. If they weren't complete by Nov. 1, 2002, the state comptroller's office could stop the payment of "all funds, grants, or State aid" to the town, the letter says.

Not filing a complete report three straight years could "cause the Town of Williamsport to have its charter repealed," the letter says.

"It's very unusual for anyone to get a letter like that," Bruce A. Myers, a Department of Legislative Services legislative auditor, said Monday.

The town completed its audits and avoided the penalties, but the chronic lateness continued. Teti & Carswell received an extension until Jan. 1, 2005, to file the fiscal 2004 audit, but missed the deadline by almost two months.

Ron Shifler of Teti & Carswell did not return a message left at his office Tuesday afternoon.

Shifler, independently or with Teti & Carswell, has done most, but not all, of the town's audits since fiscal 1992, according to McCleaf.

The state declined McCleaf's request for the state to examine the town's books since fiscal 1992.

"We're just not staffed to do that," Myers said.

Myers wrote the town in July with eight "areas of noncompliance" from the fiscal 2004 audit for the town and its auditor to fix.

They were mostly problems with new reporting requirements and not "earth shattering," he said Monday, but "eight or nine in a letter is a lot," he said.

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