Property tax error prompts Auburn spending freeze

AUBURN — A $1.3 million miscalculation last spring in the city's property tax collections will lead to a spending freeze through the end of the fiscal year.

City Manager Clinton Deschene said his staff discovered the error in the city's property tax commitment filed with the state last spring, when councilors adopted their final budget.

The amount of non-property tax revenues the city expected to receive were lower than those written on the state's paperwork.

"Those revenues were counted in excess, and they are a reduction in the total amount we commit," Deschene said. "We know how much we needed. Then we tell the state how much we are getting in revenue, and the rest is made up in property taxes."

As a result, Deschene said the city collected about $39.5 million in property taxes when it should have collected $40.3.

Deschene said the current numbers are preliminary. The city hired an auditor to review the city's financial documents when the mistake was discovered on Thursday.

As a result, Deschene enacted a spending and hiring freeze through June, which is the end of the city's fiscal year.

"You save all the money you can between now and June 30," Deschene said. "We'll put that together with our fund balances and see where we are."

Deschene announced the error at the end of Monday's City Council meeting, after a short executive session where he told City Councilors about the mistake.

Mayor Jonathan LaBonte said he and councilors were briefed on Thursday but decided to wait to make it public.

"Clearly this error was related to a personnel error, and I believe it was appropriate for the City Council to be briefed on the actions of the city manager and the status of that before we made it public," LaBonte said.

Deschene said no employees lost their jobs because of the mistake.

staylor@sunjournal.com

What do you think of this story?

Login to post comments

In order to make comments, you must create a subscription.

In order to comment on SunJournal.com, you must hold a valid subscription allowing access to this website. You must use your real name and include the town in which you live in your SunJournal.com profile. To subscribe or link your existing subscription click here.

Login or create an account here.

Our policy prohibits comments that are:

  • Defamatory, abusive, obscene, racist, or otherwise hateful
  • Excessively foul and/or vulgar
  • Inappropriately sexual
  • Baseless personal attacks or otherwise threatening
  • Contain illegal material, or material that infringes on the rights of others
  • Commercial postings attempting to sell a product/item
If you violate this policy, your comment will be removed and your account may be banned from posting comments.

Advertisement

Comments

William Ewing's picture

Miscalculating the miscalculation

"As a result, Deschene said the city collected about $39.5 million in property taxes when it should have collected $40.3". Seems to me that would be a difference of $800,000 not $1.3 million. Think they'll give me a "finder's fee" for finding that $500,000?

Joe Gray's picture

Our budget is overinflated!

If simply stopping new spending will allow us to finish out the year without any cuts, apparently we have too much money in the budget. All this stuff about bear bones budgets is just rubbish.

Give us a break; come up with a real budget with some integrity and maybe you will earn a bit of trust from the public. You have again killed your own credibility!

Joe Gray's picture

Was anything done?

If this were a private company and an employee made a mistake of that magnitude at least one employee would lose their job. Why is this city manager unable to get the job done?

On the other hand, we have an annual audit done and they didn't catch this mistake? What is the point of spending $30,000 to 50,000 for an audit when they overlook such a glaring hole in the revenue picture.?

The worst part is there were grumblings from the public last fall when it was learned that some folks had their taxes go down. How can we have a city wide tax increase of that size and folks still have their taxes go down? It was a puzzle and one that the administration and city council didn't want to figure out. "Never question the staff" seems to be the mantra around city hall. Staff are people and make mistakes. The council needs to do it's job and question staff.

So this year these folks who had their taxes drop last year will be in for a very rude awakening this year when their taxes shoot right up to cover the increase from last year AND the increase that is surely coming this year.

Mike Lachance's picture

Woops, what a convienient "miscalculation"....

....not so sure about that "mis" part.... Gee, $1.3million. Shucks. Most public sector folks would be fired for such an error. But I'm sure it worked out very good for last years budget process. Funny how that works out.

Tizz Crowley's picture

Council was briefed in Executive Session

The City Council was not aware of any specifics on the situation until the Executive Meeting. The City Council did not make the decision to delay information to the public.

Mike Lachance's picture

City Council official response

Watch this video of the city council's official response:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgcxGFmYyPs&t=0m7s

Advertisement

Stay informed — Get the news delivered for free in your inbox.

I'm interested in ...