Auditor: Phillipston in good financial health

  • Phillipston Town Hall. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

For The Athol Daily News
Published: 12/28/2020 5:15:23 PM
Modified: 12/28/2020 5:15:18 PM

PHILLIPSTON — Tony Roselli of the auditing firm of Roselli, Clark & Associates of Woburn told the most recent meeting of the Phillipston Selectboard that the town overall is in pretty good financial shape. Roselli discussed the management letter which provides an overview of the audit of FY20, which he said was completed in mid-November.

“I wanted to address the whole coronavirus, COVID, and the pandemic,” Roselli began. “Phillipston is not in a situation like some of the other communities that got hit very hard and rely a lot on different types of receipts, like permits and excise tax and hotel and meals taxes. But a lot of bigger cities and towns got hit really hard with the lockdown because they were unable to generate revenue.

“I wanted to mention that just for the fact that Phillipston really doesn’t rely on those revenues. You rely mostly on your real estate taxes. Those still seemed to come in at a pretty decent level. They weren’t too far off, and it at least allows you to finish the year in a positive way, despite the lockdown.”

Roselli said the town’s unassigned fund balance currently tops out at $1.5 million.

“That includes about $800,000 that’s in your stabilization fund,” he said. “So, about half of that $1.5 million is in your stabilization fund. So, the town has a pretty good financial position right now.

“That will leverage it, hopefully, going forward if there are further lockdowns, and things start to really disturb, maybe delay your taxes at some point when individuals start getting hit in the pocket at home. But for the most part, Phillipston seems like you’ll be able to manage through this storm and get to the other end of it pretty much whole, just because of where you’re geographically located and what you rely for different types of revenues.”

“It’s good to know,” said board Chair John Telepciak. “We didn’t know what to expect when we first got into this in the early spring. Like you said, we don’t have hotels and these other fees and taxes. But at the time we had no idea how we were going to be affected. So, it’s good to hear we’re in decent shape.”

Roselli stressed the need for towns to ensure the most secure IT system possible.

“One of the things I’m really pushing this year,” he explained, “is get your networks looked at, if you haven’t already done so. With employees working remotely, the scams and the pfishing and the hacks are at an all-time high. We just had one community that was a client a couple of years ago that just got hit for $700,000, and they’re not even sure if they can get the money back because they’re not even sure if it was insured.

“So, just be very careful of that. Hacking and everything else is on the rise now that employees are working remotely. Make sure that computers that employees are using are protected, that their virus protection is all up to speed. Make sure your software is looked at by your software vendors. Make sure everything is safe, so you’re protected from cyber attacks.”

Chief Administrative Officer Kevin Flynn said the town had recently appointed someone to oversee the town’s information technology and standardized the town’s software and anti-virus protection.

Roselli told the board there are a lot of variances in the accounts receivable of the town.

“I know the financial team was working on resolving these,” he said, “but I know there are some variances. They’re a good size, but they’re not material.

“One is $20,000 in your tax title variance. In your tax possession it’s $24,000, and there’s nothing that supports that number. And your deferred revenues and receivables are off about $3,000. So, there are some variances that need to get taken care of. Hopefully, those can get worked on before the next audit.”

The auditor also said more needed to be done to keep an eye on police details.

“What I hoped to see in place was somebody reconciling police details between the accountant’s office and the police office,” he continued, “and that really hasn’t happened. I’d definitely like to see that happening.

“What happens is, the Police Department keeps its own set of records on details and who owes the town what, and that information should be communicated to the town accountant, and I don’t think they’re on the same page because the reconciliations have not been done.”

In addition, Roselli said employee files need to be updated and made complete.

He also said it’s important for the town to fill a vacancy in the accountant’s position as soon as possible.

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