ST. PAULS — The town made bookkeeping errors that showed it overspent by $150,000 from its utility fund account, the Board of Commissioners learned Thursday during its monthly meeting.
Town Administrator J.R. Steigerwald said an audit still in progress revealed the problem, but he does not suspect wrongdoing. The former employee who handled the books at the time did not understand the system.
“I have no explanation how we ended up spending $150,000 more in utilities,” Steigerwald said. “I have got to get an explanation and I don’t think we wrote that many checks.”
Steigerwald recently learned of the problem and told the commissioners he was not pleased about it.
“The checkbook wasn’t reconciled for either account that I’m aware of,” Steigerwald said after the meeting. “Not all of the deposits were posted. It’s just a matter of getting all of the stuff caught up. What was in our books didn’t reflect what I was telling the board. I get an audit done and it shows that we spent a lot more money in our enterprise (utility fund) than I thought we spent.”
City staff is working to get the books caught up.
“If you don’t balance your personal checkbook, you could be off $300 or $400. If you don’t do it every month, by the time you get to the fifth or sixth month, you have no idea how much is in your account. That’s essentially what happened here, except it’s more important to us because we spend thousands of dollars every month, not hundreds.”
Further complicating the matter is the accounting software the town uses, he said. The commissioners agreed with Steigerwald that a new software program is needed.
Commissioner W. Evans Jackson voiced his concerns about the accounting system.
“When we first came on, some of us, the finances were in bad shape,” Jackson said. “Not necessarily the finances themselves but the reports. That was blamed on the people who were here before. Now we’ve had somebody in that office for a year and now you tell us that person was eight months behind when they left in February?”
Jackson said he ran a successful business for 30 years, but he didn’t run it that way.
“We can’t move forward until we know where we’re at,” Jackson said.
Also on Thursday, the commissioners:
— Approved placing signs prohibiting tractor-trailer rigs from using Worth Street.
— Accepted a bid for $3,500 for the purchase of a lot on the East Armfield Street.
— Discussed the commissioners’ retreat to be held on Saturday.
Steigerwald also gave an update on a sewer project, saying that between now and August there will be about $1.7 million spent on sewer line upgrades and replacement. Six manholes also will be replaced, Steigerwald said.
Reach Terri Ferguson Smith at 910-416-5865.