Como situation

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 10, 2007

Immediate audit first step for Como

Here’s a quick study in what we think should be the first step in getting Como’s finances back on track.

First, take the advice of former Batesville City Clerk and hire a local CPA firm to conduct a full audit. Use the qualified volunteers to organize bank statements and other paperwork at the town hall to prepare for the auditor.

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Broome’s suggestion got lost in a discussion of how much the audit would cost, how the town could pay for it and why spend that much more on another audit when so much was spent on the last audit to so little avail.

To pay for a new audit, seriously consider selling the town-owned clinic property to raise money. As distasteful as selling municipally-owned Main Street property is, desperate measures are mandated. Leave the municipally-owned property on the east side of Main Street alone.

Go ahead with a short-term bank loan that can be paid back as soon as the property sale is consummated. Use the loan proceeds to pay for the audit. Carefully divide the remainder into partial payments on Como’s most crucial debts and as leverage to gain agreements from those creditors that they will accept regular small payments on outstanding balances and keep services intact.

Get the town’s money’s worth out of this new audit. Use it to train a new municipal clerk to the best practices recommended by the auditors, by the qualified volunteers, including Broome who made it clear that she would be willing to help once an audit has secured the scene.

Town officials and citizens can also learn much from an audit about whether the shortages of both money and records are the result incompetence or malfeasance. If the latter, then appropriate investigative agencies need to be brought in for vigorous prosecution. And if an audit does not indicate malfeasance, perhaps that will be a good step toward clearing the air of accusation and innuendo.

Without an audit as a starting point, everything is guesswork. That’s the short term step that needs to have already begun by the time you read this. Everything else — the fiscal 2008 budget preparations that need to be starting, projections of short term and long-term revenue and how to produce it and short-term and long term debt and how to reduce it — needs to begin with Como knowing exactly where it stands right now.

One more thing. After two consecutive nights of meeting and a third scheduled for Thursday night, hopefully most people who have needed to vent have utilized the opportunity. The plebiscite-like venue that the mayor and aldermen allow is generous, but when people get worked up in that setting, they say things beyond what they really mean.

In the long run, Como will have worked its way through its financial crisis. Then when you meet someone on the sidewalk or in a restaurant with whom you differed during this crisis, you won’t feel ashamed of words too strongly spoken that you wish you had not said.