By Ed Runyan
Ongoing financial problems have put Newton Township into a state of fiscal caution, Ohio Auditor David Yost reports.
Among the most recent problems found were deficit balances, significant audit citations, failure to file financial reports and unauditable records.
“Fiscal caution is a chance to get the house in order before things get worse,” Yost said. “It’s going to take some work, but let’s hope today marks the first step on the road to the financial management Newton Township taxpayers deserve.”
Under Tuesday’s declaration, the township has 60 days to submit to the auditor a plan to correct the budgetary conditions that led to the declaration of fiscal caution, including eliminating deficit fund balances.
Township financial data as of Dec. 31, 2011, showed three funds with deficit balances of $153,001. Data as of April 30, 2012, showed four funds with deficit balances of $147,967.
Under fiscal caution, the subdivision has an opportunity to make adjustments to avoid a declaration of fiscal watch or emergency.
In early May, when Yost placed the township on the “unauditable” list, township Trustee Peter Augusta said the problems were the result of the transition between Susan Mont-gomery, the new fiscal officer, and Ella Johnson, the previous one.
Augusta said Johnson used computer software not compatible with the Ohio Auditor’s Office and converted it. But when Montgomery took over April 1, she was unable to convert the data.
The township contracted with the auditor’s Local Government Section to help put the records in order at a cost of $50 per hour, Augusta said.
Trustee Greg Dubose said Tuesday the state discovered deficit balances in several accounts this summer while trying to correct the problems.
In the fire district fund, for instance, the township was earning about $14,000 annually from the township’s fire levy, but the township was paying $53,000 annually.
Over the past 10 years, the township paid the fire district $450,000 while only taking in $150,000, resulting in $300,000 having to come from the township’s general fund.
After finding out about the problem, trustees put a 1-mill replacement levy on the Nov. 6 ballot that would raise an additional $65,000 annually to cover the deficit, Dubos said.
A full copy of the auditor’s most recent findings may be accessed online at www.ohioauditor.gov.