Town seeks forensic audit of its finances

ATHOL - In an emergency meeting Friday, the Thurman Town Board voted unanimously to have a forensic audit conducted on the town's financial books.

The meeting was initially called for the board members to review their options in amending the 2009 budget and to discuss financial matters, town officials said Monday.

"The intent of the meeting was to revamp the 2009 budget, because we hoped to apply a surplus to reduce taxes," Town Board member Ruth Keller said Monday.

The town passed a budget Nov. 18, two days before a state deadline, calling for $27,000 increase in general appropriations and a $150,590 increase in highway expenditures, causing a 25 percent increase in taxes for 2009.

Board members had cited spiraling costs for the increase, although other neighboring towns kept increases to a few percentage points.

Keller, who abstained from approving the budget, said the town was now stuck with the hiked budget because the deadline is past. Town officialsmust now deal with the budget they passed Nov. 18, she said.

Keller said she and other board members will be monitoring expenses to try to spend less in 2009 than budgeted, so any excess can be saved to reduce 2010 taxes.

Town officials have been wrestling with town budgetary and financial matters since the departure of John Haskell, who served as Supervisor until he was convicted Nov. 10 of defrauding the government.

Since Haskell left, a lot of questions concerning town finances have arisen, and they need to be worked out as soon as possible, Keller said.

"We need to get the state to come in here and do a thorough job of auditing our finances," she said. "We've got to get our finances in order so we can be comfortable with the numbers."

Monday, Thurman Town Clerk Cynthia Hyde was preparing a letter to request that the state Comptroller's Office conduct the forensic audit.

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