RUMFORD — Officials learned Thursday night from the town auditor that Rumford's financial future is "rock solid."
In fact, auditor Ron Smith told Jeff Sterling, acting chairman of the Board of Selectmen, Town Manager Carlo Puiia, and Selectmen Brad Adley and Jolene Lovejoy that the town's financial planning is much better than Maine's.
Smith said that as of June 30, 2012, Rumford had assets totalling a little more than $7 million and an obligation of about $350,000, leaving a surplus, or fund balance, of $6.65 million. Of that, $3.6 million was undesignated.
Smith said the town is on a solid financial footing. He credited revenue projections coming in at a much higher amount than anticipated. When asked why by Adley, Smith attributed that to excise taxes and people buying new cars.
He said Rumford's excise tax revenues came in about $240,000 over budget.
Smith credited the town with planning for the future.
"This town's got a lot of presence and wherewithal to look to the future and you're very wise to do that," Smith said. "You're in a good position to weather any storms that are out there, like the uncertainty in Augusta. I think the town of Rumford is rock-solid, financially."
Puiia mentioned a political advertisement in Wednesday's issue of the Rumford Falls Times that was paid for by political activist group Save Rumford.
Sterling, in his "selectperson's report" earlier in the meeting, read the ad's allegations and debunked many of the claims.
Puiia said the group insinuated in the ad that Rumford has "pockets of money that nobody knows about." He said that isn't true and Smith's audit reveals that.
"I think we're very transparent with these kinds of things, don't you agree?" Puiia asked.
"Absolutely," Smith said.
Sterling attributed the 'misinformation' to political rhetoric.
"We are in a political season now where the rhetoric gets a little heated, perhaps a little flamboyant," Sterling said.
Repeating one comment at Monday night's annual town business meeting that was cut short, Sterling said someone mentioned that Rumford is headed into a financial crisis, "characterized as a fiscal apocalypse."
"I don't hear from your assessment that that's on the horizon," he told Smith.
"No, it's not," Smith said. "I think it's fair to say that the state is headed for a fiscal crisis right now, a fiscal apocalypse, which is a credit to (Rumford) that you are in a much better fiscal state.
"Like I said, Rumford has put itself in a good position to weather any storms," he said. It's "a busy town with a vision."
Mentioning news he's heard about economic development work and efforts by groups such as Envision Rumford to grow business and interest in the town, Smith credited the town with moving forward.
"Neighbors are moving in, so obviously, people are seeing something in Rumford," he said.
After the meeting adjourned, Puiia credited previous town officials with helping to put Rumford on solid financial ground.
"It reflects a lot of groundwork that was laid for a number of years by past boards and past town managers and recommendations made by former auditors," he said.
"So the board is pleased that the audit has come back with the view that the town has made good financial planning a priority despite the economic times that maybe worried some people about their local government, that as the auditor quoted, 'We'll be able to respond to instead of react,'" Puiia said.
"It doesn't eliminate the concern we have about the (paper) mill and the economy that it supports. Nonetheless though, the report as a whole shows, as I asked that question, that we are being transparent and we're following what we've been instructed to do," he said.
"Again, I think the board is very pleased with the results and I could tell the auditor is very supportive of what we do," Puiia said. "We have an excellent finance director who does a very good job, so, yeah, I'm very pleased."