NEWRY — Prior to starting work Tuesday night on the 2014 budget, town officials learned their financial books were in great shape.

Town auditor Vernice Brooks, a senior accountant at RHR Smith & Co. of Buxton, spent all day Tuesday going over Newry’s books, Administrator Loretta Powers said.

“I am very happy to state that things are in tiptop shape,” Brooks told Selectmen Wendy Hanscom, Brooks Morton and Gary Wight, Powers and Deputy Clerk Anita Clark.

Assistant Clerk Laura Lowell “has done a really great job of reconciling the checkbook,” Brooks said. “Anita has done a wonderful job of keeping the taxes in balance and overall, Loretta’s done a very good job of keeping things in order.”

Brooks said she had to make a few journal entries but didn’t find anything that was cause for concern. She said Newry’s undesignated fund balance increased this year, going from $1.03 million to $1.15 million.

“As I stated before, the overall functioning of the Town Office seems to be working very well,” Brooks said.

When she asked if there were any questions, Morton asked her opinion of the percentage discount Newry gives to those who pay their taxes early.

“We’ve had some issues with the 2 percent discount,” he said.

“Get rid of it,” Brooks said. “I think it’s something from the past. There are very few towns that are actually giving it anymore, seriously, because they know that they are going to get their money based on the amount of interest that’s being charged.”

Brooks explained her reasons for stopping the practice.

“First of all, if I’m an elderly citizen, I’m on a fixed income,” she said. “I’m struggling to pay my taxes and you’re penalizing me because I can’t pay it early. I’ve scraped all year to be able to pay it, and yet those who have money sitting somewhere, they’re not going to make 7 percent in interest sitting it somewhere, so they’re going to pay their taxes on time anyways, because they’re not going to want to pay the 7 percent in interest.”

Newry’s first discount goes out when the bill gets paid within 30 days, and that bill usually goes out in July. Newry begins charging interest on Oct. 1.

Since she’s been doing Newry’s financial books, Brooks said the town has never had to borrow on a tax anticipation note. She again recommended doing away with the discount, saying that $20,000 to $30,000 would instead go into the fund balance.

“To me, the incentive to pay is, ‘I’m going to pay 7 percent in interest if I don’t,'” Brooks said.

Afterward, selectmen worked through much of the budget. They tabled a decision on the wages account until Powers checks with the Maine Municipal Association to see what other towns are paying their municipal officers. Possible raises were discussed, but would not take effect until after town meeting on March 3.

The board also tabled decisions on:

* What to recommend for social services donations until after more requests arrive.

* The Grange Hall and summer roads budgets until Code Enforcement Officer Dave Bonney can attend the next budget meeting at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 11, to provide more information.

Powers said he would like a committee formed to handle cemetery matters.

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