AUBURN — Auditors on Tuesday confirmed that a miscalculation kept the city from collecting all of the property taxes it budgeted for, calculating that number to be $1.7 million.
Auditors Runyon, Kersteen and Ouellette said Auburn set its property tax rate 86 cents lower than it should have been in the 2012-13 property tax collection. Based on those numbers, the city collected $39.4 million in property taxes, not the $41.1 it had budgeted.
City Manager Clinton Deschene said Monday night that his staff discovered the error Thursday. He briefed city councilors during a last-minute executive session at the end of Monday's meeting.
As a result, Deschene enacted a spending and hiring freeze through June, which is the end of the city's fiscal year.
Deschene said the mistake was not caught when the city completed its budget work last June, about the time he was starting the job. Councilors had brought in municipal consultants Eaton Peabody and former Brunswick Town Manager Don Gerrish as interim manager to work through the budget process which Deschene had just started.
"Part of this issue is the budget was built during an interim process," Deschene said. "With the amount of turnover we've had, the chance of errors happening increases exponentially. When you build a budget, you know the numbers cold. When you don't, you have to go through them differently."