Well the mystery is solved; most of the unaccounted for funds have been accounted for. I’d like to be able tell you that monies were found and we’ll see a surplus in the water fund, but I can’t. Unfortunately we will not see one thin dime of it. What happened is that in addition to massive write-offs and abatements there were many months that the water users were just not billed. In fact, in one year alone there were only nine bills sent out. Now I’m sure there’s a valid reason for not sending out the bills, but each and every month that the users were not billed, it cost the town over $14,000.00 in lost revenue. This shortfall had to be made up by the taxpayers.
It is the commissioner’s job to make sure the water company is being run properly and we need to find out what went wrong. However, this problem has been going on far too long to blame only the commissioners and the administrator. How many times did the various selectmen and finance committee members go over the revenue reports? How many times did the town administrator record the revenue numbers? We’ve had study committees, auditors, accountants and all failed to notice why the numbers didn’t jive? But it’s all water under the bridge. Since we can’t recoup the money we have to go forward and guard against this happening again.
Since this startling revelation was made the water commissioners have been working to solve this problem. To their credit they’re putting policies in place to make sure this doesn’t happen again. The commissioners have voted to bill the users 12 times per year. While this sounds absurd, the commissioners wanted to assure the taxpayers that they would not allow this sporadic billing practice to go on. The water commissioners also voted to raise the debt service to $40.00 per month. While this increase does not cover the total cost of the actual debt payment which has ballooned to $117,000.00 due to the rewritten loans; it does help reduce the subsidy that the taxpayers will be asked to cover.
I don’t know what the fallout from this will be, but I think ultimately the town and the water company will be better off for it. As there was really no delicate way to deal with this issue; this is the good, the bad and the ugly of it.