NEWTON TOWNSHIP - Newton Township was declared to be in a state of fiscal caution because of years of bad budgetary filings, Ohio Auditor Dave Yost announced Tuesday.
The declaration came because of deficit balances, significant audit citations, failure to file financial reports and unauditable records, according to the auditor's statement.
"This was obviously something that was expected and we knew it was coming," township Fiscal Officer Susan Montgomery said Wednesday.
"It is based on information from the middle of April of 2010 to 2011 and that was before I was in place. The township did not follow the correct budgetary practices during that time and they didn't submit the proper paperwork,'' she said.
Along with the problems in auditable filings, Yost's office found that financial data as of Dec. 31, 2011, showed three funds with deficit balances totaling $153,001, and data as of April 30, 2012, showed four funds with deficit balances totaling $147,967.
"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."
Newton Township Board of Trustees meets at 8:30 a.m. today at the township administration building, 441 Newton Bailey Road.
Montgomery agrees the fiscal caution is a wake-up call for the township to start taking the steps necessary to remedy the problem.
"I look at the fiscal caution as being a positive step for the township because this is the kind of thing we needed to get back on the right track. Now the township actually has verified fund balances that we can go from and we know exactly where we stand."
The declaration of fiscal caution means the township has 60 days to submit to the state auditor a plan to correct the budgetary conditions that led to the situation, including eliminating deficit fund balances. If the issues are not resolved, the township could face a declaration of fiscal watch or emergency.
The joint fire district was outlined by Montgomery as a major cause of the financial issues in the township.
"We've had to pull a lot of money out of the general fund to pay for the fire district and a lot of the imbalance in the fiscal expenditures comes from that. The revenues set aside for the fire district are based on figures from 1979 and so we have to use the general fund," Montgomery said. "That money has really depleted the general fund. A big step forward in helping the issue is the fire levy."
Township trustees will meet at 8:30 a.m. today at the township administration building.
"We will have it open to the public," Montgomery said. "Again, I look at the fiscal caution as being a part of the process. The book restructuring is what is taking so long."
Trustee Peter J. Augusta noted that the township is working with local government services to help restructure the books.
"They will be at the meeting tomorrow and they will explain exactly what the issues are," Augusta said. "We were using the general fund for the fire department and cemetery, but the local government services said we can't file them like that. It is more a filing issue than a money issue."